Part II of the Farm Forestry field day was a visit to a plantation of Cupressus macrocarpa and Pinus radiata on the banks of the Ashley River. They had survived the severe winds a year ago (when most stands this age were left shattered) with only a few trees falling in the radiata and no obvious damage to the macrocarpa. The trees were planted 21 years ago and the owner at the time had done his best to manage them on his own. The radiata had been selectively pruned (c. 300 stems/ha) as far as could be reached from the ground but there had not been a thinning operation. Part of the macrocarpa had been pruned to a similar standard and part had not.
The experts present were agreed that the pruning of the radiata had been for nought as there wasn’t sufficient height to meet the specifications for the plywood factory (knot free radiata only get a premium for plywood) but because the stand had not been thinned from the 1000/ha, branches are light and therefore the trees could well make top grade logs for the local framing timber market. There was quite a bit of discussion about what to do with the trees that were toppled by last years storm but with roots in the ground are still green. The general agreement was to leave them as extraction would damage the remaining trees and cost more than the return. That still left the option of getting some out as firewood but that is another game. Likewise thinning was not advised at this stage as this stand was now at an age where the prime consideration is volume rather than quality and thinning would reduce the final volume.
As for the macorcarpa, “do nothing” was the general consensus but there was a lively discussion about green knots, dry knots and bark inclusion over pruning stubs. Comments were on the basis of hiring a harvest crew and harvesting the stand in one go but John Wardle also talked about his experience with continuous cover forestry and radiata as that is another option, although it requires a bigger input of time and skill from the owner. There was also a discussion about harvesting and milling the trees for the furniture market.