It is important to manage farm forestry with a well thought-out management plan that addresses the financial, environmental, agricultural, non-agricultural, and personal and business goals of the farm.
Whole business planning has been widely promoted within the farming community under headings such as whole farm planning or property management planning. These approaches use several tools to help landholders define their forestry-related goals and personal performance criteria.
Private Forests Tasmania has developed the 'Farm Forestry Toolbox'. The toolbox is a CD with a collection of user-friendly programs and information. Programs like this can help in farm forestry management.
Before taking up farm forestry, remember:
Planning - do all your homework, talk to many people and design the approach that satisfies your particular requirements (whether they are profitability, shelter, landcare). Joining your local farm forestry network can help.
Establishment - whichever venture you choose, make sure you set it up properly. Poorly established sites will never be successful and profitable.
Management - do what is necessary to ensure the trees meet the market demand. Don't grow trees that no one will want to buy!
Marketing - make sure you know or understand from the start all your tree marketing options, including various lease options. Growing good trees is one thing, but only those who undertake the smartest marketing/sales options will reap the rewards from their farm forestry venture.
Farm forestry establishment
Initial establishment and design is an important phase of farm forestry. To ensure your venture meets optimum standards, you must do your initial planning well before developing your farm forestry site.
The site design can be based on a single species, or can be integrated with local natives to promote biodiversity and habitat values. You must take care with design to ensure you achieve optimum environmental benefits without compromising management and returns from the commercial timber species. Some designs you may wish to consider are:
Plantations are a long-rotation agricultural crop that can produce large volumes of wood per unit area. In parts of Australia, for example, plantations yield up to 14 times more wood per hectare than native forests for wood production, largely because of plant selection and breeding, and more intensive management techniques.
Belts are linear plantings of one or more parallel lines of trees. They can be straight (along a fence), curved or irregular (along a stream). Belts can be easily integrated with other agricultural activities.
Wide spaced: This involves trees established several or more metres apart. Wide spaced plantations can be pruned for clearwood and integrated with stock grazing or intercropped with fodder trees and shrubs.
Native Forests: Using and managing private native forests is becoming more significant with the transfer of State Forest areas to permanent reserves in some parts of Australia. Private native forests can be effectively managed so that they have a commercial value while still ensuring that the environmental benefits of the native forest stand are enhanced.
Silviculture – managing treesThrough silviculture, we can manipulate forest stands and the trees within them. Farm silviculture is about designing a regime to suit your needs and aims. Silviculture is the farm forester’s most powerful tool and the means by which you may turn ‘firewood’ into high-value veneer or sawn timber.
There are many silvicultural options. Farmers should not just accept someone else’s idea of the ‘best bet silvicultural regime’. Think about your options and design your own.
A ‘silvicultural regime’ is simply a plan of management interventions imposed on a tree or the forest in which trees are growing. Initial spacing and layout, establishment methods, thinning and pruning, fire and grazing, and harvesting patterns are some of the tools used to manipulate the growth of the trees (see the Australian Master TreeGrower Program website for more information.
Once planted, there are three basic silviculture options: leave the stand to grow; thin the stand to improve its growth; or disturb the stand enough to encourage vigorous natural regeneration.
Pruning and thinning the stand, for example, may help improve the quality and value of the timber produced. Pruning involves removing branches from the main trunk of a tree, while thinning removes some trees from the stand to reduce competition for light, soil moisture and nutrients among the remaining trees.
Given that manipulating the growth of trees will affect their quality, there are many things to consider before deciding on a silvicultural regime. Like any business decision, you must undertake research and planning to help make an informed decision.