It may sound very strange but good management in the early years is essential to get the best returns from your forest many years later.
Take vegetation control for instance. Good vegetation control will allow the young saplings to grow quickly and strongly, avoiding expensive remedial actions later. On the other hand, poor vegetation control early on weakens the young plants, results in poor form and requires expensive remedial actions later.
These and other similar issues will be discussed at the upcoming nationwide series of forest walks organised by Teagasc in association with the Forest Service (DAFM) from April 19 to 28.
The first five walks are taking place today in counties Cavan, Clare, Waterford, Westmeath and Wexford. Over the next two weeks, further forest walks will take place in different locations. See table below for full details of upcoming forest walks.
The focus at these walks will be very much on the management of young forests.
Although trees will be growing for three or four decades at least, it is critically important to ensure that they get off to a good start. Any blip early on may well have an influence on the performance of the trees much later. It is you, the forest owner, who will either reap the benefits or pay the price.
At these events, forestry experts from Teagasc and the Forest Service will explain why it is essential to care for young forests, what you can do and how to recognise early warning signs.
Why is early management so important?
New forests require several years of active management to become well established. If trees are not well maintained early on, future timber revenue is likely to be compromised.
It is therefore very important to ensure that the young forest will perform well and that new forest owners understand what needs to be done each year.
This is also very true if the management of the plantation has been subcontracted out for the first four years.
After all, it is you, the forest owner who will benefit financially from well looked after trees!
Another very good reason is because the payment of the second instalment of the Afforestation Scheme and forestry premium is subject to the forest successfully achieving certain standards.
What topics will be discussed?
A wide range of topics will be covered at the upcoming forest walks.
Most of the walks will focus on the management needs of a young forest.
Focus in the first few years will be on controlling the surrounding vegetation, ensuring that browsing animals can't damage the young trees, replanting of failed trees, assessing nutrient needs, shaping of broadleaf trees and reducing the risk of fires. Other topics that will come up for discussion include grant regulations, how to ensure that a sufficient number of trees are growing per hectare, monitoring tree health, how to recognise signs of poor tree health and the need to plan for the future. One walk in Cork for instance will have a look at a four-year-old agroforestry site.
I will discuss some of these management topics in more detail in next week's Farming Independent.
Who will benefit from attending?
This series of forest walks is aimed at landowners who have established a forest recently. However, landowners who are considering planting will also find these events very useful as it will give aspiring forest owners a very good idea what is involved in looking after young trees successfully and how to recognise early warning signs.
The aim of these walks is to provide guidance to forest owners. Owners need to take an active role in the management of their forests to maximise future timber revenue.
If you are planning to attend, please wear appropriate footwear and raingear. Just in case!