Irish farmers need to get over their aversion towards planting trees
I am very excited at the prospect that we are, hopefully, going to plant some forestry.
We've often talked about it and finally it looks like its going to happen.
When our forebears arrived here 9,000 years ago, broadleaf forest dominated. Coverage declined initially due to the change from hunter-gathering to agriculture. But the process accelerated rapidly from the 1600s onwards, due to exports to England for shipbuilding, etc.
At the turn of the 20th century, just 2pc of Ireland's land area was covered by forests. This has now risen to 11pc, with three-quarters of this being classified as predominantly conifer.
The target nationally is to bring the afforested area to 18pc by the middle of the century, and that ambition is attracting increased impetus in the context of our climate change strategy.
However, this year is actually seeing a contraction in planting, due to well-publicised reasons, while increased non-farmer activity in the sector is also raising some hackles.
Unlike other countries where farmers routinely plant trees to satisfy their own firewood requirements, I wonder why many Irish farmers see planting trees as only something for the old, infirm or those whose ambition has plateaued.
Perhaps part of the reason is that up to relatively recently, enough firewood was readily available through fallen trees and natural regeneration?