Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Is blanket planting the way to achieve national forestry targets?

Forestry: a fall back income
Forestry: a fall back income
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Ireland has just 560,000ha under forestry, or 11pc of land area, a figure far below the EU average and our national target, a recent panel discussion on the topic heard.

However, the best way to increase forestry cover, to meet national plans of having 18pc cover by 2050 is not so clear.

Noel Kennedy, a Teagasc forestry advisor said the EU average for national forestry cover is about 38pc. He said that from a national perspective there are tremendous opportunities to increase the amount of forestry cover.

The national policy, he told a debate at the Ploughing Championships, is to increase our cover to 18pc by 2050.

Fianna Fail TD for Tipperary Jackie Cahill said blanket planting of forestry in any area is not good for any rural community and questioned why there was a blanket ban on planting land where Hen Harriers are. He said this would be ideal for planting and would help Ireland reach its climate targets.

Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny said that there is a huge problem in Leitrim, where vast areas of land have been planted with sitka spruce. "While it is the most profitable for those who plant it, it kills the micro economy that farming produces," he said.

Forestry, he said, can lead to a situation where the farmer is not even needed in cases, where entire communities are planted and no one ends up living there.

"I have nothing against forestry but the model we have in Ireland is working against live, vibrant communities and we have to change that."

Joe Codd, Director of Sales with Forestry company Veon said that forestry does create employment but that the debate should not be between farming and forestry.

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"The debate should not be about forestry or farming, forestry is a complimentary part of the farm. If a farmer has 5/6ha of less productive land, it could be put into forestry and concentrate on the best parts of his farm."

He also said it is important for forestry companies to know about farmers objectives when planting.

"We need to talk to that person about their objectives - is it to make as much money as possible, or the long term plan, to leave it to children, or sell it."

At the moment, he said if farmers want something financially viable, its sitka spruce, as when the premiums stop there is still an income from the timber.

Noel Kennedy also said that forestry can make a major contribution to reduce GHG emission as the trees will absorb GHG.

He also said that almost 400 farmers in Leitrim receive on average €6,000 in annual forestry premium payments, making it a significant income source for many.

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