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Clarky's Comment - September 2012, Back to Basics

Back to Basics

The NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was originally conceived as New Zealand's primary tool to help transition our national economy to become less reliant on fossil fuel consumption, and as a result more internationally competitive and resilient. It started off as an All Sectors / All Gases policy, with the forestry sector being the first to be fully involved.

The latest policy review, now subject to an accelerated submissions process, looks like it will render the ETS something of a lame duck in fulfilling its original intent.

Unless we see some changes through the Select Committee process it is obvious that the forestry sector clearly cannot rely on getting any net payment for carbon sequestration, despite the obvious need for new forest planting to help balance expanding emissions as our economy grows.

However, as forest owners, there are certain things we can do improve our profitability. Most NZ forest owners do these things pretty well but we still see examples of less than optimal forest management practices. Here are a few basics that we have collectively learned through past research and experience to get the most out our forest investments:

  1. Use good control pollinated or clonal treestocks. Our industry breeding programme is delivering some very credible gains in both volume and wood quality. We only get one chance every 25 – 30 years to get this decision right.
  2. Containerised treestocks now have a long record of good establishment success in sandy/dry soils or late season planting, plus many cutover harvesting sites. Inoculation with beneficial endophytes (combatting Armillaria and Red Needle Cast) is now routine at the PF Olsen container nursery.
  3. Regardless of whether bareroot or container treestocks are used, packaging, delivery, field storage and handling of treestocks must be done on the basis that these are very vulnerable babies suffering the biggest shock of their lives.
  4. Machine soil cultivation, where feasible, pays early growth dividends.
  5. Keeping seedlings free of weed competition for the first year is critical.
  6. Higher early stockings have a beneficial effect on mature tree wood properties.
  7. Excluding or eliminating browsing pests and domestic stock is essential.
  8. Timing of pruning and thinning/s needs careful modeling, planning and execution.

At the end of the day our job is to responsibly deliver consistent lines of high-quality raw material (logs) at lowest possible cost into a manufacturing process that enables that business to efficiently make wooden products that customers want and are willing to pay for.

Priority research set out in the NZFOA Forest Growing Science and Innovation Plan is targeted squarely at growing more volume of higher quality wood (dense, stable, free of resin and internal checking) for processing into solid wood products. But there is quite a lot we can do as forest managers with the existing knowledge we have.