First thinning is make-or-break time for forests so it pays to prepare with care
Good management requires knowledge. The amount of knowledge available to a manager has a direct bearing on the quality of management that is possible allowing, as it does, for informed decision-making.
A fundamental requirement to successful business management is knowing the extent of the assets both owned by and available to the owner or manager.
"You can't see the wood for the trees," is a particularly apt phrase with regard to forest management, especially so in the case of young plantations in the pre-thinning stage. Once a plantation closes canopy, access becomes increasingly difficult and, without access, it is impossible to assess how the trees are faring with any degree of accuracy.
Only a small fraction of a typical plantation of say 10ha or 15ha is visible from the boundaries, ridelines and internal roads. And, in any event, the woodland edges do not give an accurate picture of what lies within. An intensive network of inspection paths brashed through the forest helps, indeed is essential, but even then it is still impossible to see everything.
Matters improve after the first thinning. A first thinning of spruce will usually entail the complete removal of rows of trees at regular intervals, referred to as 'racks', with a light selective thinning of a number of stems between the racks.
One row in seven is the usual prescription, leaving blocks of six rows between the racks and a 12m wide rack.
The harvester can then travel the rack and reach in three rows on either side to carry out selective thinning.
It is unusual these days to mark a first thinning. Marking involves identifying the stems to be removed either by cutting a blaze on the tree or spraying with paint. It is quite a labour intensive and therefore expensive job.