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Steep Slope Harvesting Research

The Future Forest Research (FFR) Steep Slope Harvesting program, supported by government's Primary Growth Partnership fund, is progressing well and achieved all of its objectives in the first year. The program aims to improve worker safety and reduce the costs of harvesting on steep slopes.

The most advanced development is the steep slope harvester being developed in Nelson by Trinder Engineers and Nigel Kelly Logging Ltd. FFR is providing assistance to speed up the development of this machine. The second prototype, incorporating significant improvements from the earlier prototype (these include a new front mounted integrated winch, a rear mounted blade as a primary braking device, a modified boom, a more powerful engine that has been dry sumped, larger fuel tanks and increased hydraulic oil capacity to improve oil cooling and a redesigned operator cab) is now being field tested in the Nelson area. Once field testing is completed the aim is to carry out productivity studies and to demonstrate the machine on a range of sites in the North Island in early 2012.

Other developments in the program that are proceeding well are the development of systems to improve vision for hauler operators, the use of LiDAR technology in an on board decision support system for machine operators on steep slopes to identify high and low stability areas in each harvest area and investigation of tele-operation options for steep slope harvesting.

Douglas-fir Establishment in South Island Under Threat

A successful and well attended 2 day workshop and field trip for Douglas-fir growers was organised by FFR in Gore in November to provide an update on the latest developments in Douglas-fir growing. Participants were updated on the Douglas-fir Association's 7 year campaign to have untreated Douglas-fir lumber allowed in building, returning to the standards that were in place 7 years ago.

Wilding spread is rapidly emerging as an issue that has the potential to halt new plantings of Douglas-fir in the South Island unless the property is surrounded by intensively grazed land. Examples were given of local bodies using consents to establish new forests in Otago and Southland or insisting on wide buffer strips of other species. Future research will focus on this issue.

Douglas-fir seed orchard at Ettrick

Genetically improved Douglas-fir seed is now available to FFR members from a Douglas-fir seed orchard established by the former Douglas-fir Cooperative on Ernslaw One land at Ettrick in northern Southland. This material has been selected for improved vigour, form and wood quality and is the first seed from the Douglas-fir breeding program. Early results indicate this material will deliver significant gains. Growers are encouraged to use this improved material

Ernslaw One hosted a very successful field trip that included winter releasing with glyphosate, a Douglas-fir provenance trial established in 1959, an impressive Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) provenance trial in Beaumont Forest and a visit to the Douglas-fir seed orchard at Ettrick. The visits emphasized to all the real value in forestry of long-term trials and the importance of good data for decision-making.