I loved reading this article from the Irish Times recently in relations to Climate change: In terms of Forestry and Farming in Ireland we see there is a national plan to plant 440m trees by 2040. That is really good if that target can be achieved which I believe it can. At the moment Ireland produces at least 61.5 million tonnes of Co2 per year. Any participating in carbon reduction is a feel-good issue. Now let’s do the maths.
Calculations for Co2 in Ireland –
In examining forestry and farming in Ireland let’s examine the numbers required. Each tree removes 7 tonnes of Co2 per year. Therefore 61.5 million / 7 = 8.7 million trees, which will remove our annual Co2 emissions. This means that our planting target is many times our Co2 emissions. That is good, but there are still many short comings.
30 years ago I completed my thesis on forestry in Ireland. In “them” days I was quite idealistic. I remember designing my questionnaire and preparing the questions I would ask. I went off and interviewed the farmers “down the road”. Were they interested in getting involved in forestry and did they know the returns they would achieve, etc? I wrote up my findings using my state of the art computer . I used Corel and other spreadsheet software, including statistic packages like SPSS. This was cutting edge at the time. I did my cost analysis and net present values analysis and then handed in my thesis. I fondly thought every time I looked at a tree of what had become of the thesis. Were my findings any good. ?
I don’t think it got much traction in 1989 from my professor. However, I decided to check something this week. I discovered that in the period from 1985 to 2006 forestry planting in Ireland increased from (411,000 hectares to 697,730 hectares .Tthat is a 5.9 – 10.1% land coverage increase. It so happens that in 1990 a plan to set 80,000 hectares of forestry was initiated. If we do some calculations we see that 80,000 hectares is approximately 140 million trees. Not bad , things were happening, albeit a little too slowly. In 2015 Ireland forestry areas was still in second last position in Europe at 12% versus 72% for Finland
Is the mindset right for farmers
Forestry and Farming in Ireland will always be at odd somewhat. Forestry planting is a long term project. Farmers never really liked the long term 30 year investments when I was doing my thesis in 1989. Yes, there were grants and still are, but who wants to wait 30 years for a return ? Mindset is difficult to change, but if we continue to persuade and use renewables as a source of fuel for energy there seems no reason why planting will not continue to increase as demand is enormous.
Some foresty calculations
Steven Meyen estimated from an Independent article this month that a typical commercial crop of Sitka spruce will provide a great pension funds available. For instance, a well-managed, 8-hectare (20 acres) forest planting of mainly Sitka spruce on reasonably fertile marginal land will provide a tax-free premium payment of €4,080 per year. That is (€510/ha, €206/ac, GPC3) for the first fifteen years. This is followed by regular income from timber sales (thinnings plus clearfell). Therefore at the end of a 33-year rotation, this farmer who may now be considering taking it a bit easier, can expect a typical income from timber sales of between €140,000 and €180,000 in today’s money (€17,000-€22,000/ha, €7,000-€9,000/ac).
It seems like a “no brainer”. There are so many incentives out there for farmer and forestry investor. If purchasing marginal land for forestry or as a farming extra, there is still strong evidence that a good return can be made from the grants and the thinning etc that occur through out the life of the forestry asset. I highly recommend having a look on the Teagasc video above that has a wealth of informative information in this record. Now let’s do better if we can.
For more articles on gardening for biodiversity, the following article by Great Mccarthy O’ Brien may be of interest
Note: Images taken from Google Images Reference treehugger.com