During autumn and early winter broadleaved trees are a stunning sight.
The mix of colours at this time of year reminds us of their almost incomparable beauty, especially when planted in a variety of species.
Growing them is a long-term project and the greater financial benefits await future generations but even after just two decades, they have transformed my farm in terms of providing a leafy and continually changing landscape along with much needed shelter and excellent wildlife habitat.
Most importantly, the thinnings have also provided the basis for my son's wood fuel business. Many of the trees are already over 17m in height and of the ideal girth for firewood processing.
Conifer species are, of course, also suitable for wood fuel but once you have used kiln-dried hardwoods, you will be slow to burn anything else. So all in all, I have little to complain about and count myself lucky that I planted in an era when we were actively encouraged to establish woodland.
In the 1990s there were far less of the restrictive regulations that have crept into the system and which have made afforestation at times a bureaucratic nightmare.
Having said that, the grants for growing broadleaves are still very attractive and given that all farming practices have become mired in complex regulations, we have become more adept at coping with them.
I recently received, from COFORD, a copy of Broadleaf Forestry in Ireland which is the expanded and updated version of the earlier Growing Broadleaves by Padraic M Joyce.
The first edition, published in 1998 was an invaluable reference book but in the intervening years, much more has been learnt about how best to grow these wonderful trees in specifically Irish conditions. Rather than using the lengthy superlatives it deserves, I will just say that this new edition is an excellent and invaluable book.
It is far larger in size and content than its predecessor and the authors, all famous men in the realms of Irish silviculture, have been assisted by a long list of names in the credits, all of whom are well known in the world of woodland management and research.
It is perhaps the first book I have read that contains the answers to virtually all of the questions we continually ask, such as which choice of species will suit my land best or any of the multitudes of queries relating to ongoing management. Most importantly, it is written in understandable English and succeeds in avoiding the use of obscure terminology beloved by so many academics. I must, by now, have hundreds of books on my shelves of various size and content on the subject of growing trees but none come close to this one in terms of providing an abundance of clear, concise information.
Broadleaf Forestry in Ireland is in one sense a comprehensive text book but also relates the story of how the different species arrived here and prospered or otherwise under changing climatic conditions. It then proceeds to describe how forestry was practiced in Ireland up to the present day, gives a large section to advice on woodland management and finishes with a very detailed description of the main broadleaved species we grow along with some minor species such as Rowan, Walnut and others and also a few that may well prove their worth in the current warming of our climate. It also contains a history of the earlier afforestation schemes along with full details of the current one and the various grants and premiums available.
The management of deciduous woodland has been rather neglected here in Ireland but newly adapted practices and a greater understanding of its needs shows broadleaves to be an exciting and greatly underrated crop.
The resultant book is the accumulation of knowledge gleaned from centuries of European forestry up to the present day. Students, young and old will find this an unbeatable reference source as will anyone with even a passing interest in what is a fascinating subject. If you are contemplating planting some land or have already invested in forestry, or just want to expand your knowledge, you will find yourself delving into the contents over and over again.
Many landowners who planted broadleaves in the early days of the afforestation schemes have been very disappointed with the results.
This is partly because they were advised to put the wrong species in the wrong place or planted to maximize premium income. Others, like myself, were fortunate in obtaining good professional advice but in those days, there were many conflicting opinions. If we had access to Broadleaf Forestry in Ireland 20 years ago, far less mistakes would have been made.
There are a multitude of reasons as to why we need to grow more broadleaved trees and this book tells us what to plant and where, how to look after them and almost everything you could possibly want to know. It is nicely illustrated and includes practical and honest appraisals of the potential economic returns.
'Broadleaf Forestry in Ireland' can be obtained by contacting Orla Cashen at COFORD Secretariat, 3 West Agriculture House, Kildare St, Dublin 2 or email Orla.Cashen@agriculture.gov.ie or phone( 01) 607 2085. Copies cost €55 including P&P.