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.

Cut down trees and Forestry

College life

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

Cut down trees waiting for collection
Timber sales at the end of a 33-year rotation should yield €7,000 to €9,000/ac at today’s prices

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

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