Ireland falling far short of afforestration targets

Ireland is falling far short of tree planting targets
Ireland is falling far short of tree planting targets
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Ireland is falling far short of tree planting targets, with just 6,156 hectares of new forestry funded last year, a forestry expert has warned.

"Ireland has around 10.6pc of the total land area planted, far below the European levels," says Michael Fleming, chairman of the IFA's forestry committee.

"However, we need to get to 17 to 18pc to be self sufficient."

Mr Fleming said the forestry sector was in a "precarious situation" with 6,000ha the bare minimum to sustain the level of employment and opportunities for the sector.

He said the afforestation programme has fallen by 40pc in the last 10-years from 10,000ha in 2005 to just under 6,200ha last year.

There was funding available for 7,000ha but this had not been reached over the last four years.

The IFA has urged Minister of State Tom Hayes to reopen marginal land with a realistic grant rate that would attract farmers to forestry as land availability was a key issue.

Mr Fleming said the new Forestry Programme saw strong interest at the start with nearly 2,300ha of new forests planted.

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However, he added that there had been "slippage", with the number of new applications to plant at the end of May down by 22pc on this time last year.

Figures from the Agriculture Department's outlook report show the sawmill sector is currently importing around 30pc of its roundwood requirements

Ash dieback

Meanwhile, farm foresters were warned to remain "vigilant" for signs of ash dieback and outbreaks of disease in Japanese larch.

The recent outlook report warned both diseases continued to be a "major concern", with 54 cases of ash dieback disease in forestry plantations and 89 in other locations.

It highlighted as significant the detection of it for the first time in native hedgerow in two separate locations after previously being confirmed on imported trees in the areas.

There was also a significant rise in detections of Phytophthora ramorum disease in Japanese larch with 42 sites confirmed.

Around 300ha of forest has been affected mainly in the south west, south east and the east of the country.

Aerial surveys were carried out of larch last year.

Mr Fleming urged farm foresters to be aware of the diseases and to check trees regularly.

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