Heartwood – the art and science of growing trees for conservation and profit
After almost 10 years of research and writing, Rowan Reid has teamed up with Melbourne Books to produce Heartwood: The art and science of growing trees for conservation and profit. It’s a relevant, reliable reference to all things agroforestry.
As a forest scientist, he has been working with farmers for more than 30 years. Over the decades, he has watched as governments and industry offered farmers generous cash incentives and joint ventures. Still, the farming community remain largely disinterested and sceptical about commercial timber production.
So, why does he persist? “In Heartwood: the art and science of growing trees for conservation and profit I argue that to engage the farming community it is forestry itself that must change, rather than farmers. The trees must first provide short to medium term values. Any wood produced by farmers will be a by-product of the management of forests that farmers need to support their agricultural production, control land degradation and enhance the capital value of the primary asset, the land itself,” says Rowan.
“On my own farm, we have planted thousands of trees of more than 50 different timber species including English Oak, Coast Redwood, Blackwood, Poplar, Sheoaks, Black Walnut, Australian Red Cedar, Silky Oak and, of course, many species of Eucalypt.
“We planted trees for conservation, but then managed them for high quality timber. We continue to graze sheep between the trees to control the fire hazard, or plant an understorey for biodiversity. The result is more like a parkland than a plantation. “After 30 years, we are now selectively harvesting sawlogs for on-farm milling and drying using a chainsaw, PTO-driven tractor logging winch, portable bandsaw and solar kiln. Our timber has been used in furniture and houses. Sliced veneer from our eucalypt harvested from our Landcare plantings was used in the new Australian Tax Office building in Dandenong,” he says.
Every farm and every farming family is different.
“In my region in the Otway Ranges, where we have been mentoring farmers for more than 25 years, the forests we see on farms are diverse and complex and are now producing a variety of timber and non-wood products for both big and small industries. This diversity reduces the commercial and biological risks inherent in the production of timber and heralds a new future for the timber industry in Australia.”
In Heartwood: the art and science of growing trees for conservation and profit Rowan shares his own experience and that of other researchers, farmers and tree growers. The book explores the underlying principles of tree growth and wood production and the opportunities available for farmers to integrate timber production into their landscape for conservation and profit.
■ A table Rowan made from a 25-year-old Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) amongst 29-year-old high-pruned trees of the same species (Photo: Cormac Photography).
■ Rowan Reid on his Bambra Agroforestry Farm (Photo Cormac Photography)