Landowners learn of rich returns from mature hardwood

Landowners continue to plant up to an additional 6,500 hectares of trees every year, say the organisers of a workshop on hardwood forestry tomorrow in the Manor Hotel, Abbeyleix, Co Laois.

This event is hosted by the Teagasc’s Forestry Development Department, and comes at a time when many of the broadleaf woodlands planted in the early 1990s are approaching the time for thinning.

The key message of the event is that quality is key in the production of valuable hardwood timber.

“We have run events on conifers, which people have found very useful,” said Liam Kelly, forestry advisor with Teagasc.

“People have asked us to host a similar conference for hardwoods. This is the inaugural event for hardwoods.

"This event is about helping people to identify their markets. Our key message will be to give people a sense of the great value they can get for veneer quality hardwood. Not all crops will reach the quality market, but we’ll be showing people how they can give themselves their best chance of reaching top quality.

“We’re encouraging people to grow quality trees. The first two or three thinnings are just firewood, but as the crop gets larger, people can see the greater value they can get from the quality tree market,” said Mr Kelly.

Of the 6,000 to 6,500 hectares of land being added to forestry each year, 20% to 30% is going to hardwood planting.

In recent years, a lot of new growers have opted for conifers, which can mature in 30 to 40 years; i.e. reach the 25 diameter breast height required by industry.

Hardwoods take longer. Ash and sycamore can take 50-70 years to mature; beech, 80-100 years; oak, more than 100 years.

While the quality markets are accessed closer to full maturity, forests deliver revenue right through their cycle. In the last four to five years, even the firewood market has been proving quite attractive to growers.

Tomorrow’s conference will feature inputs from industry representatives, including firewood companies, hurley manufacturers, wood turning and crafts industries as well as some leading Irish furniture producers.

Nuala Ni Fhlatharta, head of Teagasc’s Forestry Development Department said: “It is timely for Teagasc to organise an event bringing together broadleaf growers and users of hardwood timber. This event will assist in the development of a much needed, indigenous hardwood market in Ireland.”

When growing broadleaf trees, appropriate management results in the production of quality timber.

Management techniques include formative shaping, high pruning, marking of potential crop trees and thinning at the correct stage.

Early broadleaf thinning is aided by the Woodland Improvement Grant, together with the demand for firewood, details of which are available at tomorrow’s event. As crops develop through further thinning, logs from the removed trees will become suitable for higher value-end uses.

Mr Kelly added: “The event will commence with a number of demonstrations of various hardwood uses. Participants will also have the opportunity to view Irish hardwood products. These demonstrations will be followed by presentations from Teagasc and industry personnel on the management, uses and requirements of the hardwood industry.”

Topics to be discussed will include: the existing broadleaf resource; producing quality timber; harvesting practices; and current and developing markets.

Registration starts at 9.30am and the event will run from 10am to 2.30pm. This indoor event is free.


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