Forestry: Shape up for quality timber
The old saying goes that 'a good start is half the work' and this is certainly true if you want to grow quality broadleaf trees.
If you want to sell quality hardwood timber, you need to grow long, straight lengths of timber. Shaping is key if you don't want to feel the pinch in your pocket.
Top quality planks are sawn from the straight trunk of the tree. The place on the trunk where the first fork appears is the start of the tree crown.
If the fork occurs one metre above the ground when the tree is two years old then the same fork will still be about one metre above the ground forty years later.
If shaping is not carried out in time, this will make for a very short saleable length of trunk.
By removing forks or very large competing side branches while the tree is still very young, you can 'move' the crown higher up the tree thereby extending the length of the trunk (pic 1). This process is called 'formative shaping'.
There are several reasons why young trees may fork. It can be caused by exposure, frost, animal damage, insects or diseases.
It is therefore very important to regularly check your trees so that you know when the forking occurs. It is much easier (and cheaper) to shape when branches are still light which also gives much better results later on.