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Quick check list for designing a tree plantation

 
David Wood
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Location: Sth Gippsland and Melbourne
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I'm giving some local landowners a hand planning some small tree plantings. Here's a draft of an initial checklist I'm working up. Be interested in people's comments.



i/ What are the site characteristics? Soil, rainfall and temperature across the year, aspect, prevailing winds.

ii/ What are your objectives? Construction timber? High value timber? Food? Onfarm use? Selling off-farm? Firewood? Bioenergy? Wattle structures? Rustic furniture? Bee fodder? Stock shelter and shade? Erosion management? Biodiversity? Habitat?

iii/ Do you want to have a go at practices like coppicing and hedge laying?

iv/ Timeframe. How soon do you want a return? Will you leave the property - and trees - for your children?

v/ How much area do you want to use for trees?

vi/ Do you want to plant exotics, natives or a mix?

vii/ Do you want a monoculture plantation - some species occur naturally in largely single species stands - or employ analogue forestry or another mixed species approach?

viii/ Budget. Will you grow some seedlings yourself? It's much cheaper to raise trees from seed but it does require time and some skills.

ix/ Will you prune yourself? This will involve ladder work.

x/ How will you exclude stock and manage opportunistic browsers such as deer, wallabies and rabbits ?

xi/ Weed and fire fuel load management plan. Once stock are excluded grass and weeds will grow. Once the canopy closes in a closely planted coupe, grass and weeds will be suppressed but that will be some time down the track and may not occur for some weeds, such as blackberries, depending on the type of planting. Blackberries are a tough, successful plant that wants to grow in woodlands and forest edges. As well as rank grass and weeds, once the trees start dropping a lot of bark, dead branches, windthrow etc this is potentially a fire risk. In dry years as well as natural fire causes such as lightning, various human mediated fire causes such as arsonists and carelessness from car drivers with cigarette butts need to be considered. One recent bushfire in Vic was caused by metal grinding on a Total Fire Ban day from memory.

xii/ Will you harvest and thin yourself? This raises issues about safety and training in felling and chainsaw use. Forestry is about the most dangerous rural activity.

xiii/ Will you want to clear-fell - again well-suited to some species natural response to events like fire, cyclone - or use a technique like continuous cover forestry?

xiv/ How much time do you want to spend on forestry per annum?

xv/ What tools will you use? What do you own, what will you buy or hire and what will you get contractors to do?



 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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Another question could be about the layout of the land.
A lot of time and energy can be saved by laying things out on contour, and it just takes a couple days of surveying.

Much in the same way, pre-planning soil biology interventions and even a small amount of earthworks (could be just running a plow above new plantings on contour) could create an end product that harmonizes with the landscape rather than viewing it as a grid.

A lot of people investing in land want to know what it is going to cost them in terms of time and money, so spending time getting those numbers right might make people feel more at ease. I have come to the awareness that you Time/Money/Quality are in proportion to one another and it's nearly impossible to have the best of all three. If you know that going into a project it helps make your decision making more accurate.
William
 
David Wood
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Location: Sth Gippsland and Melbourne
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Thanks for the reply, William. A few comments below.


William James wrote:Another question could be about the layout of the land.

William


I had in mind topography when I mentioned aspect in the checklist. But I agree it does need to be more explicitly mentioned. Some very steep slopes probably should be under trees but shouldn't be used for timber. With low impact harvest techniques, steep slope can be used for timber with care.


William James wrote:Another question could be about the layout of the land.
A lot of time and energy can be saved by laying things out on contour, and it just takes a couple days of surveying.

Much in the same way, pre-planning soil biology interventions and even a small amount of earthworks (could be just running a plow above new plantings on contour) could create an end product that harmonizes with the landscape rather than viewing it as a grid.

A lot of people investing in land want to know what it is going to cost them in terms of time and money, so spending time getting those numbers right might make people feel more at ease. I have come to the awareness that you Time/Money/Quality are in proportion to one another and it's nearly impossible to have the best of all three. If you know that going into a project it helps make your decision making more accurate.
William


Agroforestry practice in SE Australia at least is moving away from ripping/mounding etc before planting trees. We've planted all our trees either directly as seeds or using a Hamilton planter initially and mostly a Finputki. In soil like ours with good soil moisture after autumn/winter rainfall and minimal compaction the finputki works fine. We wouldn't use swales as our land is prone to slips. And I haven't seen any site results indicating that keyline is useful in high rainfall areas. One relatively formal study on keyline in a higher rainfall area in the US found no benefit for soil health, at least.

We've planted some of our coupes on contour by eye. I guess this could be done more formally.

Agree with you about budget. An initial estimate would drop out from what's worked up from the initial checklist. As you say, balancing time, money and quality is always a challenge. Reworking plans to fit with the resources available is part of every project.

Thanks again for the reply

David
 
William James
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David Wood wrote:
Agroforestry practice in SE Australia at least is moving away from ripping/mounding etc before planting trees. We've planted all our trees either directly as seeds or using a Hamilton planter initially and mostly a And I haven't seen any site results indicating that keyline is useful in high rainfall areas. One relatively formal study on keyline in a higher rainfall area in the US found no benefit for soil health, at least.


Keyline also harvests water in ponds/dams for years where you might not have high rainfall and it works as a fire-managment strategy, something that's pretty important if all your investment is tied up in trees.
So maybe forgo the ripping but look at keyline ponds/dams?

Also I think 28% of slope is the limit or so I've heard. Everything steeper should just be forested.
Edit: 18% is the limit. No swales, only forest or very accurate terraces. 2% is the bottom limit for drainage.
William
 
David Wood
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Thanks again for the comments, William.

WRT keyline, factors in whether or not to use this technique might include cost, block soil characteristics, general rainfall pattern, observed dry year rainfall (determining this is made a bit easier by the severe multi-year drought in Australia for most of the first ten years of this decade), block topography, existing water storages and so on. For example, on our block, we have steep soil on one side of the main creek which is prone to slips. I would be very nervous about having perched water storages on these slopes. So perhaps the checklist might say something like "would you like to examine if keyline is relevant?"

WRT your statement "if all your investment is tied up in trees", this is not something I would do or recommend to a landowner except for perhaps the case of a block which represented a small fraction of the landowner's total assets. Cyclone, pests, disease and fire can all affect forests. I think it's better practice to mix land usage. The photo below from Austria illustrates this approach.
Roland Pictures 108.jpg
[Thumbnail for Roland Pictures 108.jpg]
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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