Fire use : Is it really the cheaper land preparation method for large-scale plantations?

TitleFire use : Is it really the cheaper land preparation method for large-scale plantations?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsSimorangkir D
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
ISBN Number1381-2386
KeywordsAgriculture, Cost, Economics, Fire management, Fire use, forestry, Land clearing, milieukunde, PLANTATION, Zero-burning

During the last two decades Indonesia has experienced immense forest and land fires. Often these fires are associated with extended drought and widespread use of fire to clear previously logged forest and other degraded land in preparation for oil palm, rubber, or pulpwood plantations. There are many reasons for the use of fire in land clearing activities, but probably the most important one is economics. There is still acceptance that fire is the cheapest, fastest, and most effective land clearing method with the added benefit of providing nutrients from ash residues. This paper provides a review of existing information on the financial costs and benefits of using fire for land clearing in agriculture and forestry plantations as compared with zero-burning techniques. The findings indicate that the economic advantage of fire use varies widely and depends on many factors, such as soil fertility, vegetation density, labour cost, equipment and training costs, and the costs of fire management. For large-scale land clearing, the financial analysis of the costs and benefits of fire versus zero-burning shows that when applied to low-volume vegetation, zero-burning methods are not more expensive than burning – and may actually be more cost effective in the long term. This is the case for clearing oil palm or rubber plantations for replanting, low secondary vegetation, and heavily logged-over forest. Under high-volume forest conditions, burning remains less expensive because it is more difficult, time consuming, and costly to dispose of high volumes of piled wood mechanically. Copyright Kluwer Academic. All rights reserved