Tighter environmental regulations will have a serious impact on forestry plantings this year.
Padraig Egan of SWS Forestry said the new measures that were introduced late last year will seriously reduce the area that can be planted in some holdings.
Mr Egan said the requirement for a 5m setback from drains, watercourses and ditches had the potential to restrict planting on up to 30pc of holdings in some cases.
"Five metres may not sound much but if the setback is on both sides of the drain, it can quickly become a big percentage of an area," he pointed out.
Although Mr Egan remained "optimistic" regarding farmer interest in planting, he said the environmental guidelines would have a negative impact on the total area committed to forestry.
"I think these restrictions are going to be a factor because people will not be allowed to maximise the productive capacity of their holdings," he said.
While the national target for forestry plantings for 2017 is 6,640ha, Mr Egan claimed the sector would be doing very well to get 6,500ha.
John O'Reilly of Green Belt said the target was achievable, although he accepted that there were concerns around the environmental guidelines.
He said this winter's planting season had started strong, with good demand from farmers.
Green Belt planted 2,200ha in 2016 and Mr O'Reilly said he would be striving to exceed this figure in 2017.
A report from the Forestry Service in December indicated the number of planting approvals, or Form 1s, were back 19pc on a year-to-date basis, and the area covered by these forms was down 20pc.
The number of Form 1s that were technically approved were back 16pc on the year-to-date, and the area down 13pc.
The reduction in Form 1 approvals has been dismissed by some in the industry who argue that this trend stemmed from moves by the Forestry Service to stop multiple applications for planting clearance on the same parcel of ground.
However, others claim the December figures signal a sizeable fall-off in planting for the year ahead.
Under existing plans, Ireland aims to increase the level of forestry cover from 11pc of the country's total area to 18pc. This will require an additional 480,000ha of land planted.