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Managing young forests


Newly planted forests require several years of active management to become well established regardless of type of woodland or tree species. If a forest is not well looked after, both biodiversity value and future timber revenue could be compromised, Steven Meyen, Forestry Development Officer advises

It is therefore very important that forest owners understand the needs of a young forest. After all, it is the owner that will benefit most from well looked after trees!

Controlling the surrounding vegetation

When small trees start to grow in spring, their roots require adequate nutrients and moisture to grow strongly. So make sure that the surrounding vegetation is well controlled at the start of the tree-growing season to avoid competition with the small trees for nutrients and moisture. If surrounding grass and weeds are allowed to get out of hand, it will be much more difficult and more expensive to bring the situation back under control. As the doctor says, prevention is better (and cheaper) than cure.

Photo above: poor vegetation control

Successful vegetation control can be done either manually by trampling down the surrounding vegetation or by carrying out a chemical herbicide treatment. Using herbicides has the added benefit that the nutrients and soil moisture are more readily available to the tree roots rather than the surrounding grass and weed roots.

Using cold store trees

The planting season for bare rooted plants is well and truly over. It is still OK to use cold store trees for a few more weeks though. This way the planting season can be extended. Cold store trees are trees that are lifted from the nursery beds when they are still fully dormant and placed in large chilled storage facilities, ‘cold stores’.

There are advantages and disadvantages associated with this approach. Cold store plants tend to give excellent results if they are handled well and planted within two weeks of removal from the cold store. However, planting cold store trees in the spring is a high risk strategy. If a dry period follows late planting, the mortality rate due to drought can be very high.

Applying fertiliser

Satisfactory nutrient levels in growing trees is of critical importance. Fertiliser can be applied from April to August. For best results however, it is advisable to apply fertiliser when the trees need the nutrients the most, i.e. in April and May.

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Photo above: Phosphorus deficiency in young spruce

Broadcast the fertiliser evenly during suitable weather. Avoid fertiliser ending up in drains and keep well away from rivers and streams. Do not apply fertiliser to waterlogged soil or when heavy rainfall has been forecast.

Formative shaping

The purpose of formative shaping is to grow long, straight lengths of quality hardwood timber. By removing forks or very large competing side branches, you can ‘extend’ the length of the main stem.

Shaping should start early once trees are growing vigorously. This usually means when the trees are two to four years old. Use good quality, clean, sharp secateurs. Loppers and a pruning saw may have to be used if shaping is left very late.

Remove the weaker (and crooked) side of the fork. Also remove very large side branches. Don’t remove too much of the foliage, the tree needs its leaves to grow strongly. A correct cut is made just outside the branch collar without leaving a peg.

Shaping of broadleaf trees can be done in either summer or winter. Avoid shaping in spring or autumn at all costs.

BPS 2021 and Forestry

It is that time of year again! Time to fill out your all-important BPS application correctly. This must be done by the Monday May 17th BPS deadline.  This is especially so if you also have forestry on the farm, because eligible land that was declared in a Single Payment Scheme (SPS) application in 2008, and which was afforested since, can continue to be eligible for a BPS payment in 2021 if a number of conditions are met.  (see table below)

Also important, the pre-2020 requirement to retain at least 10% of the eligible hectares in an agricultural activity, subject to a minimum area of 3 hectares, does not apply for new planting or existing (eligible) forests in 2021. For full details, see www.teagasc.ie/forestrybps.

BPS 2021 and Forestry table

The Teagasc Forestry Department issues an article on a Forestry topic every Friday here on Teagasc Daily  Keep up-to-date with the Teagasc Forestry Department here . More on Teagasc Forestry Social Media here