Everywhere you go in Jungsan County of South Phyongan Province you can see fast-growing poplar trees.
Saplings grow competitively in the circular cuttings ground, tree sapling greenhouses and outdoor cultivation grounds of the parent tree nursery of the county forest management station and tens of thousands of Sangwon poplar trees stand along the four-kilometre banks of the Mubon Stream in Mubon-ri like a tree wall.
“In fact, we first planted and grew this tree to solve the firewood problem. But now we really benefit from it in terms of firewood and in various other economic factors,” said a county official.
From 100 to hundreds of thousands of trees
The county began to plant Sangwon poplar trees in 2015.
According to experts, the tree grows 25m high, over 2 metres a year on average, and can be used as firewood, a raw material for papermaking and timber five years after it is planted. Its caloric value being equal to that of coal, it is used as a fuel for thermal power stations or heating boilers in some countries.
“At first, we began county afforestation with some 100 tree saplings,” said Ri Hyo Il, manager of the county forest management station.
According to him, the tree grows well in land with deep soil horizon and over 40 percent soil humidity and demands lots of sunshine. So land in the water areas is the most suitable soil for its growth, he said, adding the county has many rivers and streams, which is favourable for its growth.
The station built a large-capacity water tank near the parent tree nursery to secure a water source, provided enough conditions for watering them while focusing on observation and applied a tree sapling production method based on tissue culture for two-time cultivation a year to grow healthy saplings.
Tree saplings cultivated in the parent tree nursery and several other nurseries took roots in the waste land along the several rivers and streams and reservoirs in the county.
“As they are planted there, it is easy to tend them and we do not need much labour for transport in case they are cut for firewood. And as they function as a windbreak, they help protect arable land from flood and prevent damage on crops from typhoons,” said Kim Thae Sik, workshop manager of the county forest management station.
The county produced hundreds of thousands of tree saplings till last year, planted some 140-hectare poplar forests and sent many tree saplings to South Hwanghae Province, Kaesong and Rason cities and other areas.
Trees benefit county population
The county people say they benefit from Sangwon poplar.
First of all, it helps the county solve the firewood problem.
Farmers say they planted a 15-hectare forest with 3,000 trees in a hectare and thinned out them from the following year, started cyclic felling from the fifth year when the accumulated timber per hectare amounts to 300 cubic metres, and since then they have produced 150 cubic metres of firewood every year, which is enough for dozens of families.
And the tree is very useful as its branches are used as bow-shaped supporting sticks and others for farming materials and it helps solve the shortage of compost.
In the past every household in the county consumed 3-5 tons of dry rice straw as fuel a year, but now they produce 5-6 tons of compost with the amount of rice straw which was used as fuel to improve soil fertility.
“In the past a large volume of water flowed into the Mubon Stream in rainy season, washing away farmland, submerging ripe crops in autumn and thus decreasing the crop harvest. But now the poplar forests protect farmland and ecological environment and ensure safe crop harvest,” said an old man who has lived in Mubon-ri for a long time.
Road keepers and farmers say in unison that trees are very useful in every way as they improve landscape and cast shade over them when they have a rest in sunshine.
“We will plant Sangwon poplar tree forests in larger areas to reduce dependence on forests and turn the county into a place covered with green forests,” said the county forest management station manager.