Creating firebreaks in South Africa

Paraquat is helping to create and maintain firebreaks in commercial forests in South Africa. Paraquat has a valuable role in forestryOne of the greatest risks to the long-term sustainability of plantations in South Africa is the risk of fire. Three million tons of fiber from 300,000 hectares of land are produced every year by Sappi Forest in South Africa. As a result, Sappi Forest has developed comprehensive fire control plans, which, among other things, require the preparation, and maintenance of fire breaks during the dry season. Wayne Lotter, Environmental Manager of Sappi forests says that the most effective and environmentally responsible approach to fire break preparation requires the use of paraquat. Paraquat is used to "dry off " grass tracer belts, which can be burned to create firebreaks well before the peak hot and dry “fire anger” period (when fires are most likely). These firebreaks have little above ground plant material to burn while the roots remain intact and alive. Alternative methods include mechanical removal or the use of other herbicides, which would kill not only the green parts of the plant but also the plant roots. Both methods leave a bare soil, which can result in firebreaks becoming badly eroded. By desiccating grass fire breaks and leaving little growth above ground while retaining the root structure, paraquat helps to maintain firebreaks, which will not erode as they would if plants were removed mechanically or treated with other products.