Tree Transplantation


Tree Transplanting is an old practice, which has been employed to rescue, save, or salvage certain trees, which are under threat of cutting or removal or damage due to various reasons.
Such of those trees which are under threat and which also assume importance due to their rarity of occurrence, species type, endangered status, size, age, location, religious importance, medicinal value, emotional value, aesthetic value, etc., can be considered for Transplanting. Again, though the practice is not new, the technique cannot be applied for all species of all ages at all places. Hence, this technique can be employed for a small scale, exigent situation and site specific reasons where few trees of immense importance can be tried for Transplanting.

Need for tree transplanting

There is a need to take up such experiments, acquire field knowledge and prepare package of practices on this Technique so that it can be employed ‘as and when’ required based on technical suitability. Hence, a well- structured ‘Standard Operative Procedure’ (SOP) can be developed on Tree Transplanting based on the past experience and the on-going experiments at various forest divisions in the state.
It is also pertinent to mention that large number of well grown trees are in/face danger of cutting during the implementation of developmental projects like road widening, railway line, water related projects, mining etc., The people, politicians, media, conservationists, environmentalists, judiciary, etc., take cognizance of the fact that the trees are being cut without giving a second thought. They also ask, whether such of these trees can be saved?
Since their concern is genuine, we need to address such concerns by educating them with the technicalities involved in dealing with these live specimens. Under such circumstances, the transplanting technique can be of some help for selected species depending on the factors as detailed above.
A similar exigent situation arose in Gadag Forest division in Dharwad circle where, about 1300 trees were to be cut in the Gadag district for road widening project between Hubballi and Hosapete implemented by NHAI and about 500 trees were to be cut in a Water impounding project. The Gadag District administration showed keen interest and commitment to save as many of these trees from cutting and relocate/transplant them in suitable places. Then the Gadag Forest division got involved and planned for Tree Transplanting, in consultation with the senior officers. The trees were selected, based on the criteria cited above, they were transplanted. The post-transplant care is being taken adequately and these trees are showing the signs of survival and establishment. But, these trees are to be observed for at least for twelve months to ascertain their successful establishment and growth. Various environmental conservation agencies, NGOs, Scientists, press/media, people, politicians etc., have expressed their satisfaction about the methods adopted for transplanting and are confident that these trees will survive.

Methodology adopted

The entire process of the Tree Transplanting experiment has to be planned as below: (These methods are applicable for One meter and above girth class trees also. Changes can be adopted as per local conditions and size and girth of the tree).
Various teams should be formed like, Tree treatment team, Transport team, Machine/material procurement team, Logistics team, Liaison team etc., with designated work chart and responsibilities.
Overall works have to be planned, executed and monitored by the Steering team comprising of senior level officers of all the departments involved and should own responsibility for the outcome of the process.
All the trees coming in the zones of developmental works have to be listed and inventoried. Species wise, girth wise, location wise classification should be done.
Various Agricultural scientists (for plant protection measures), NGOs, related Departments, agencies should be contacted to gather information on the subject and the field techniques, procurement of machines, plant care details, etc.
After gathering all the required information, the list of trees suitable for transplanting has to be prepared and the suitable locations should be identified for their transplanting.
The points to be kept in mind are that the tree undergoes several shocks during its removal from the original site, like, Root injury, exposure to Sun, detachment from mother soil, lack of moisture, infection, injury during transport, alien new soil conditions, duration of travel, etc.,
The machines like JCBs, 10 to 20 Tonne capacity Crane, Long vehicle for transport, Lorries, Ropes, Gunny bags, packing materials, Water tankers, etc., have to be procured. Almost all these machines are required in two sets, one at original Tree site (for lifting the tree) and the other at the Receptor/Transplanting site (for inserting into pit and making it stand firm).
Adequate men force at both sites to facilitate smooth handling of the tree while lifting, loading, transport, transplanting, etc.
Support from other departments like, District administration, Health department, Police, Telecom, Electricity, Municipality, Agriculture, etc., is essential. After procuring all the information about pre & post care details and identifying the target trees, receptor site, suitable season, etc., the operation can be scheduled for execution

Treatment to the tree

General health, size, species, root system etc., of the tree should be assessed before deciding about its removal and transplanting. Only a good and promising tree should be considered. The pre-treatment to the tree should begin at least 5 to 7 days prior to actual removal of tree. One meter deep trench has to be dug around the tree trunk at a distance of about 1.5 to 2.0 M from the tree trunk (as in pic) with a medium bucket JCB and water it continuously. Watering should be done in the trench only. The shape can be either Rectangular or Spherical, as per local convenience. This will help to soften the soil and pre-condition the roots for mild exposure and displacement. Care should be taken to lift larger sized trees with bigger root balls so that more roots are encompassed to ensure better re-growth and early establishment. Root growth promoters can be used (Harris, J, Roger and Nina L. Bassuck, 1993). The Antibacterial and Antifungal spray/solution can be used if any roots are exposed and found injured. Crown pruning or root pruning can be done depending on the species and local conditions. But care should be taken that the injury caused to the tree is minimum.

Treatment at the receptor/transplanting site

The receptor site should be selected in such a way that it is very close or almost similar to the original site conditions and the treatment should start at least 5 to 7 days prior to transplanting. A 3x3x3 M or 2x2x2 M or any convenient sized pit is to be dug (as in pic) depending on the size (girth & height) of the tree and its intact root ball that is being transported along with the tree. The thumb rule is, the transplanted tree should have atleast Two feet extra space/radius in the pit, after its placing in the pit which helps the roots to establish in a well-treated, nutrient rich, infection free soil. This pit should be watered daily, proper drainage given and cut surfaces may be drenched with antifungal/antibacterial/anti-termite/dung slurry or solutions. After three days, the pit should be filled to a height of One meter (from bottom of the pit) with adequate good quality organic manure/vermi-compost/FYM and Mother Soil or good local soil. Mother soil is the soil from the original site of the Target tree that is to be transplanted. This will help the transplanted tree to find a comfortable root zone. Then continue watering till last day but care should be taken to keep the soil well drained

Tree lifting/Removal

The tree can be marked for its orientation to East and West directions, so that a similar orientation is maintained (as far as possible) at the receptor site also. On the day of transplanting, the tree should be adequately padded at its trunk with gunny bags (as in pic) where the Crane will hold and lift from the top. The tree trunk should also be tied with good sized ropes at its trunk to enable it to lodge/lie on to the long vehicle/lorry. The soil has to be loosened further with a JCB and the ball of earth with a big mass of intact roots can be lifted. JCB will assist to free the roots by a little, gentle push from below and the Crane should lift the tree from the top (as in pic).
This will help the tree to free itself with minimum possible damage to roots. When the tree is freed from the soil, the roots and the soil ball should be immediately covered with wet gunny bags (or can be done after placing the tree on the vehicle). Then the tree is lifted up in the air and with the help of ropes, it can be laid to sleeping position (as in pic) with its roots and soil ball facing towards the engine. Smaller trees (less than 70 cm girth) can be transported in Lorries keeping them in vertical position (as in pic).

Tree transporting

After the tree is loaded on to the vehicle, it should be tied to the vehicle at suitable points to keep it in good hold and position during travel. The roots and the soil ball should be constantly kept covered with wet gunny bags and watered to reduce the impact of exposure to sun and desiccation. The Mother soil from the root zone should be loaded into the vehicle, covering the gaps so that the tree gets the required cushion during travel. This soil can be used for filling into the pit at the transplanting site (as in pic).
The tree branches can be tied, without breaking them, to enable smooth movement. The vehicle should move at such a speed which should not cause any injury to the tree. All the overhead cables/wires/obstacles should be kept free all along the route. The traffic police should facilitate smooth movement of the vehicle. The Health officers and the Ambulance services should be kept at site at all times during the operation to attend any emergency.

Tree insertion into pit

When the tree arrives at the transplanting site, about another 0.5 meter height of mother soil is put into the pit along with vermi-compost. Now, the 3.0 M deep pit has become 2.0 M deep. Water the pit adequately to keep the soil moist. Make the tree erect with the help of Crane (as in pic) and keep its balance by using the ropes already tied to it. Now, slowly lower the tree into the pit and with the help of the ropes, bring it to the centre of the pit and insert it orienting to its original East –West position. The gunny bags covering the root ball can be removed. There should be at least Two feet space all around the edge of the root ball and the walls of the pit.

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