IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Collins said forests that are actively managed and thinned regularly encourage the strongest trees to thrive, are healthier, capture more carbon and generate more income for owners.
Mr Collins said there are a lot of farmers who are not managing their forests and this could significantly reduce the value of the final crop. He encouraged farmers to make the effort to cut brash paths to access their forest, to apply for the grant to build a forest road and to hire a professional forester to assist them to manage the forest.
He reassured farmers that making the effort to actively manage forests will generate additional income, “By actively managing a forest, an owner will generate income from the sale of timber during the rotation but, more importantly, will increase the value of the final crop, by focussing production on the better quality and more vigorous trees.”
As a result of the intensive afforestation programme undertaken by farmers in the 80’s and 90’s the volume of timber forecast to be harvested in the private sector is expected to increase significantly. In 2016 COFORD estimated that the roundwood volume would increase from 3.95 million m3 to 7.86 million m3 in 2035, with the increase in roundwood supply to come almost exclusively from farmers.
The mobilisation of the private forest sector is one of the biggest challenges facing the sector, Collins warned. He said, “Farmers are first time timber producers and as a result some have been slow to engage as they are unfamiliar with the crop and timber markets. Farmers with a plantation 15 years or older should talk with other forest owners and foresters to get to know their forest and start to develop a plan that ensures the forest is sustainably managed so their investment is protected”.
He said that current timber markets are strong and with the increasing demand for wood fuel it is a good time to be a forest owner. He continued that forest owners with the right supports were ideally placed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the emerging bioenergy and bioeconomy to produce low carbon value added products locally and create sustainable rural communities.