Heart­wood – the art and science of grow­ing trees for con­ser­va­tion and profit

Australian Forests and Timber - - In The News -

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)

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