Saturday 24 September 2016

Crossborder research on high value timber crops

Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30

The AgroCop project investigates the potential of using land to produce coppiced willow together with high value hardwood trees such as wild cherry
The AgroCop project investigates the potential of using land to produce coppiced willow together with high value hardwood trees such as wild cherry

Although more traditional forms of agroforestry have been around for a long time, agroforestry suited to modern Irish farming conditions requires further research. Farmers who have established agroforestry over the last number of years deserve our gratitude because we all can learn from their experience and the expertise they've built up.

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Teagasc has been involved in agroforestry research since the eighties and is currently involved in joint research with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) based in Loughgall, Co Armagh.

The AgroCop project investigates the potential of using land to produce coppiced willow together with high value hardwood trees such as wild cherry. The project is funded in part by the Woodwisdom Net with five different EU countries.

The aim is to maximise the production of both high quality timber and energy wood by combining the available advantages of agroforestry and short rotation coppice.

The project involves establishing and monitoring both experimental and demonstration agroforestry systems in Ireland in collaboration with AFBI Loughgall and Gurteen College while supplying growth and performance data to European partners to facilitate the modelling of biophysical and economic characteristics of such systems across a range of environmental conditions.

The established experimental field sites will also serve as demonstrations for potential growers and for future studies.

Kevin O'Connell, a forestry teacher at Teagasc's Ballyhaise College has recently established a number of agroforestry demonstration sites. These sites will provide a great practical learning tool for the students at the College.

Genetic quality

Teagasc's research on improving the genetic quality of tree species such as birch, alder, ash and sycamore as well as its research into formative shaping will contribute to improving agroforestry systems.

It is encouraging to note that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in its current 2015 Competitive Call for Research Proposals encourages applications in relation to agroforestry.

Eligible research proposals should focus on plantation design, suitable species, stocking densities, sustainability issues and synergies between trees and agricultural crops, livestock and the environment.

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