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Application of the "Body of Knowledge" as Important as new Research and Development

Peter Clark often reminds us in his monthly column "Clarky's Comment" on how research and development is the only way to achieve long-term, sustainable competitive advantage. What is often not stated, however, is that this is predicated on consistently and correctly applying the current best-practice or body of knowledge. If this is not done, optimal outcomes will be compromised (at best), or even destroyed, by poor execution or poor quality.

Of the vast body of existing knowledge and best-practice in forestry in New Zealand, how much is actually being applied by the industry now?

It constantly surprises PF Olsen how common poor forest practices are and the consequent loss in value of the forest crop at harvest time. Often this occurs in the search for the cheapest solution: for example no professional advice, little, or inadequate supervision and cheap contractors who are cheap because they cut corners. For an example of this involving pruning, see Wood Matters Issue 8: Stark Reality of Poor Pruning Hits Home at Harvest Time.

With an increasingly large proportion of the productive forest estate in the hands of smaller forest growers, how prevalent are these poor practices, and what is the associated opportunity cost? The financial returns from forestry are too skinny to risk losing value to poor implementation of what are otherwise world-class forestry management practices. This is a critically important issue for New Zealand in our quest to increase our productivity and raise our standard of living. Hopefully the "Sustainable Forestry Fund free forestry database project" (see last month's issue of Wood Matters) will help to some extent. Also FFR's Forest Growing Master Classes (see next article) are directly aimed at addressing this issue. More is needed, however, including a change in attitude from one of "she'll be right", to one of "I'll make sure I get it right".