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Reaping the Rewards from Woodlands

Many people who planted broadleaf trees in the 1990s are now reaping the rewards of their decision, especially if the trees were looked after from the start. These young woodlands are providing valuable earnings to their owners at the current time when money is scarce. Young broadleaf plantations at the 1st thinning stage are producing a good income. The Forest Service provides a one-off grant of €750 per hectare to thin the woodlands. Demand for firewood is strong and excellent prices are being offered for the thinnings. There could be another 8 years of premium worth €508 per hectare still to be drawn down, and to top it all, there may also be a grant available to build roadways to provide access to your woodland.


Despite the compelling arguments for thinning, many woodland owners have not done so. Not only are they losing out on a good source of revenue, but are reducing the potential productivity of their woodlands. Delaying thinning will make the trees more prone to disease and degradation. In well managed woodland at the end of a rotation there should be approximately 200 broadleaf trees per hectare, the rest of the trees (3000) will have been removed as thinnings. To put it another way, 90% of all trees, or 50% of the volume in broadleaf woodland is removed as thinnings over the commercial life of the crop.


Owners need the knowledge to complete this important operation so, Teagasc, the Forest Service and COFORD are organising a National Demonstration of Tending and Thinning of Broadleaf Woodlands on Wednesday, 20 April, at the Drumlane Community Centre, Milltown, Co. Cavan.


Kevin O’Connell, Forestry Adviser with Teagasc in Cavan outlined the background of this farm forest and its owner: “Justin Good from Milltown had the foresight to plant in the 1990’s. He initially planted 1.5 hectares of Ash in 1991 which has been thinned three times already. He planted another 10 hectares in 1999 and a further 6.5 hectares in 2007 of mixed broadleaf trees. He has always looked after his woodlands and has won two RDS forestry awards - the Medal of Merit in 2004 and the prestigious Farm Forestry Award in 2005 for their design and management. Incidentally this award was won by another Cavan person in 2010, Mrs Anne O’Reilly. Justin decided to make a career in forestry and in 2008 returned to college to qualify as a forester. He is presently studying for his masters in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). The 1999 plantation is now ready for thinning and Justin will carry out the operation himself and sell the thinnings as firewood.”


This demonstration is aimed at landowners who have broadleaf plantations at or near the age of first thinning, but it will also be beneficial to owners who want to visualize how their woodlands will develop. The following topics will be highlighted: growing trees for quality timber, timing of first thinning, preparation for thinning, getting the job done, harvesting and firewood production.


The event will open with a discussion on the optimum time to commence tending and first thinning of Ash/Sycamore and the associated important issues to be considered at the time, e.g. felling licenses, harvesting grants, forest roads etc. This will be followed by a practical demonstration of the tending of Ash/Sycamore. Participants will be shown the process of marking the trees for tending with identification of potential final crop trees and subsequent marking of stems to be removed including competitors and diseased stems. The session will conclude with a visit to a plot that has recently been thinned. There will be advice on the safe use and maintenance of chainsaws and a demonstration on processing firewood. Thinning your plantation is an essential investment for the future of your crop. This is a great opportunity to acquire the know-how to get the job done.