Trans-Tasman Blackwood Grower Friendship

Simms

I just received this great email from my friend and blackwood grower Gilles which I couldn’t resist turning into a blog.

I like good news stories!

And yes…it’s another story from New Zealand.

Hi Gordon,

I just got back from a 3 weeks trip in New Zealand , originally it was a meant to be just a vacation with some friends but after a week I ended up travelling on my own and i soon found myself on a farm near Kaitaia in the Northland,  guest of Brian and Gaye Simms ( they are friends of a friend of mine who sent me there ).

As I got there we were soon talking blackwoods and Brian ask me if I knew you …

I was so lucky to spend 4 days with them and look very closely at his 40 years work on his farm, planting  natives and of course blackwoods to create windbreaks and stabilise the hills … an impressive result !

What a great example of what needs to be done on most farms to improve the production and create an asset that, in his case, he is able to start harvesting.

Here are some photos I took last week:

I hope Brian posts some stories of his experiences as he begins his first blackwood harvesting.

Here’s a video of Brian talking about his farm and his trees produced by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association:

Keep up the great work Brian.

Thanks to Gilles for the inspiration and photos.

A Harvest Result to Confound the Experts

Here’s another great little story from the latest New Zealand Tree Grower (Vol 38/1 p. 19) journal that will be of interest to farmers.

www.nzffa.org.nz

Harvest result to confound the experts NZTG 38-1

The story follows from my other recent blog:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/03/01/good-news-story-great-returns-from-small-blocks/

The story isn’t about blackwood, but it illustrates what commitment, good management and planning can achieve on a farm even with a commodity wood like Radiata pine.

Every year for the past 27 years the Wilson family have planted and managed 1 hectare of pine plantation on their farm near Otorohanga, North Island NZ. The farm is obviously close to markets and on easy ground so harvest and transport costs are minimised.

The recent first harvest of 1 hectare of well managed pine plantation netted the Wilson family $NZ57,700.

All up they now have 27 hectares of well managed pine plantation on their farm, and good annual income in perpetuity (markets permitting). Now if they want they could replant another hectare each year so that in 27 years time they are harvesting 2 hectares per year.

This is an excellent example of how to incorporate wood production into your farming business.

Yes it takes time for trees to grow, but that time will pass regardless of whether the trees are planted or not. And as the Wilsons now discover their commitment and hard work will pay a handsome annual dividend.

Your farm may not allow 1.0 hectare to be planted every year for 30+ years. Or it might have difficult terrain or greater distance to markets.

You could make a planting every 2 years, or every 5 years. Most farms have areas that are not being used as part of the main productive activity, whether its grazing, cropping or dairy, due to size, location, slope or drainage. These areas could be used for growing valuable wood products.

Eventually, as the Wilsons discovered, you end up with a regular handsome dividend from your work and commitment.

Bunnings enters the war zone as the forestry deception continues

Bunnings.jpg

Australian hardware giant Bunnings has waded into the Tasmanian forestry war zone as more troops line up on both sides of the escalating conflict.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-05/bunnings-will-not-stock-timber-from-areas-logged-under-tas-plan/8419226

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/bunnings-wood-suppliers-wont-be-sourcing-their-product-from-soon-to-be-reopened-forests/news-story/97582af4856db9afff95f1f0438df3b5

The only way any of this makes any sense is if it is considered a political ruse, a deception.

What if the Government only wants to open up the 430,000 ha of public native forest to allow taxpayer-funded, destructive, unsustainable special timbers harvesting of our last remaining oldgrowth and rainforest?

The Government knows that by itself such an idea will get little public support.

But within the context of the “threat” of large-scale industrial forestry, a “compromise position” of special timbers harvesting becomes much more palatable.

Almost acceptable!

The Tasmanian community are being played for fools once again.

The fact that FIAT (the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania) opposes the Law but supports the special timbers provisions within the Act indicates that at least some of the forest industry are aware of the deception.

It’s all just a game.

As I said previously the Tasmanian Government has no plan to rebuild the forest industry. Nobody has a plan to rebuild the Tasmanian forest industry.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing and there are no profitable tree growers in current Government or industry policy.

Pruning blackwood

Here’s a couple of blackwood pruning questions from David in South Gippsland, Victoria.

Example 1

How would you tackle this one?

Cootes1

That’s an easy one David!

Read the Blackwood Growers Handbook Pages 55-60.

You have at least 2 clear options on this tree – the dominant on the left or the dominant on the right.

Blackwoods have an amazing ability to straighten up if you encourage them with good pruning.

Be brave!

PS. I should mention that Spring is the time to prune blackwoods. This gives the trees a whole growing season to begin healing the pruning wounds.

Example 2:

I think a deer might have got at this one

Cootes2

Looks like it!

The tree is fundamentally compromised from a quality wood production point of view.

I think with this one I would prune it to ground level and let the blackwood coppice. Then after a year select the best coppice shoot.

Try and get some venison sausages!!

Cheers.

Notes on West coast (NZ) blackwoods

IanBrown

New Zealand blackwood grower and co-author of the blackwood growers handbook Ian Brown has posted a useful and detailed update on his view of current blackwood management. It makes for thoughtful reading for current and prospective blackwood growers.

Here’s the handbook:

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/farm-forestry-model/species/blackwood/#Blackwood handbook

Here’s the update:

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/nzffa-member-blogs/ian-browns-blog/notes-on-west-coast-blackwoods/

I have two comments on Ian’s notes:

Firstly on the issue of blackwood growth rate and wood quality.

Certainly current research shows that growth rate has little to no impact on blackwood wood quality in terms of heartwood colour and basic density.

But my PhD research showed that blackwood wood quality can vary enormously from tree to tree. This is supported by numerous other studies, and is shown to be mostly genetically based.

So if you want good quality wood from plantation blackwood you need to plant good quality genetic stock.

Unfortunately we don’t yet have a blackwood selection and breeding program.

Fortunately the incidence of poor wood quality genes is relatively low.

Also note that research shows there is no correlation between heartwood colour and wood basic density.

Secondly on the issue of pruning height.

Pruning height will obviously affect the final value of the crop and in a big way since most of the value is in the clear pruned log.

Where the site dictates that you can only prune to 4 metres so be it.

But a fully stocked blackwood plantation of 200 trees with an average tree diameter of 60cm dbh pruned to 6 metres will have approximately 300 cubic metres of clear grade premium blackwood per hectare. Only prune to 4 metres and the volume of clear grade blackwood comes down to 215 cubic metres per hectare a reduction of 28%!!

Whilst you have the trees growing you may as well get the most value out of them that you can.

Thanks to Ian Brown for posting his comments.

C F Martin Guitars & Sustainable Tonewoods

CFMFTF

Martin The Journal of Acoustic Guitars is a glossy magazine published by CF Martin Guitars every 6 months.

The latest edition (Vol. 7, p. 64 – 69) contains a great article about what CF Martin are doing about promoting sustainable tonewoods.

https://issuu.com/cfmartin/docs/mag808_martin_journal_vol7-final_li?e=23350636/43337570

CF Martin has a problem, a problem called success.

Most of the world’s premium guitars are built from a combination of mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. However, these traditional tonewoods often come from areas of the world that are under severe pressure from logging and development.

“We’ve done such a good job of convincing the customer that these traditional, rare and exotic timbers make the best guitars, that it’s difficult to move customers away from those materials,” said CEO Chris Martin.

Being an old company can have its advantages and its disadvantages. In the case of CF Martin tradition and heritage can prevent change, even if that change is desperately needed. And in the international tonewood market change is definitely needed; change away from using rainforest and old growth timbers to a more sustainable future.

The customers of CF Martin are becoming a problem.

They are addicted to rosewood, mahogany and ebony!

So Martin Guitars approach to sustainable tonewoods is to establish a close working relationship with a third party forest certifier, in this case the Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

But…

one of the biggest challenges the FSC® and the Rainforest Alliance have had over the years is consumer awareness. “One of the goals has been to make the consumer more aware of these brands and, in turn, for these brands to become more relevant to the consumer.”

Hence the Rainforest Alliance has created the Follow the Frog program, which Martin Guitars has signed up to support.

https://www.martinguitar.com/FollowtheFrog

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/followthefrog

www.fsc.org

Here’s a great video with Martin CEO Chris Martin explaining the history of the company’s relationship with the FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. Well worth watching:

In the mean time Martin Guitars are caught between an inflexible customer base and a rapidly changing tonewood market.

In the coming years, Martin will introduce a new line of guitars using temperate hardwoods from North America that relies on both historical and new shapes and designs.

I have absolutely no doubt about CF Martin’s commitment to sustainability, but I do have a few suggestions for them:

  • Can the FSC logo be displayed on the front page of the Martin website?
  • Under the “Guitars” section of the website, why can’t I select and view FSC guitars?
  • Even when I find an FSC guitar using the Search facility, the FSC logo isn’t prominently displayed.
  • And if I go to this page under Custom Shop (https://www.martinguitar.com/custom-shop/tonewoods/) the message is all about rare and exotic tonewoods.  Nothing about a sustainable future at all.

So whilst the commitment to sustainable tonewoods is there I think the marketing and promotion at CF Martin still needs extra work, whilst at the same time the focus on traditional, rare and exotic timbers needs to be ramped down.

I wish CF Martin all the luck in the world in their endeavours to change the acoustic guitar market.

FIAT (& the TFGA) opposes forestry bill

Edwards&Bailey2

Three important news articles in minor Tasmanian newspapers this week shine the light on the growing conflict in Tasmania over Government forest policy.

Firstly a front page article in this week’s Huon News (22/03/2017) is one of the more detailed and informative news articles on the current forestry chaos that I’ve seen.

Huon News 22032017

The Huon News is the weekly newspaper of the Huon Valley, a Tasmanian community that has been particularly hard hit by the 35 years of forestry wars. The community has been left shattered and bitterly divided. And still we have our politicians stirring up trouble and pain.

The second and third articles are in this week’s Tasmanian Country (24/03/2017) newspaper, a weekly newspaper published for the rural community.

Tas Country 24032017

The Tasmanian Government is actively working against the advice of its own forest management agency Forestry Tasmania.

The Government is also acting against the advice of both the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) AND the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) representing private forest growers.

http://www.fiatas.com.au/

http://www.tfga.com.au/

The Tasmanian Government says it is acting on behalf of the Tasmanian community AND it has a mandate from the 2014 election, and on that basis it will ignore these three critical organisations.

After reading these articles you are left scratching your head wondering what on earth is going on?

There are two points I want to highlight from these articles:

  1. FIAT says that the forest industry is not taxpayer subsidised. I beg to differ in the strongest terms. Despite going to the 2014 election promising no more subsidies for the forest industry, in the past 3 years the Tasmanian taxpayer has given over $250 million in subsidies to the forest industry. This includes the Tasmanian taxpayer assuming responsibility for $150 million in superannuation costs from Forestry Tasmania!! So much for health and education. What private company gets that kind of special treatment?
  2. The TFGA talks about bipartisan political support for the forest industry. Given that neither FIAT nor the TFGA have any forest industry policies or plans it is difficult to determine exactly how we are to judge the issue of bipartisan support. Exactly what are the political parties supposed to support? Exactly who is leading? It was blind bipartisan political support that created the Gunns and MIS disasters.

Our political system is deliberately competitive (and ultimately destructive). It’s like a football grand final. Winners AND losers!! Bipartisan political support is an oxymoron. The 2014 State election proved that.

NO ONE HAS A PLAN FOR THE TASMANIAN FOREST INDUSTRY.

Not FIAT, nor the TFGA; neither Liberal or Labor.

And if they did have a plan it would only be as good as the next State election…….if that!

While the State Government remains a major player in the forest industry then the industry is doomed.

In 2014 the people of Tasmania voted against the forest industry at the State election.

No matter what the outcome of the 2018 State election, the Huon Valley community along with the rest of the Tasmanian community and the forest industry will lose.

And on top of this the State Government is looking to bring a 150,000 cubic metres per year sawmill to Tasmania from Victoria. The Victorians have run out of sawlogs and the mill will close.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-18/tasmanian-government-claims-vote-of-confidence-after-victorian-/8366344

All available public native forest sawlogs in Tasmania are already fully allocated, so why bring the sawmill here? Hence the concern in the third article.

Nothing makes sense.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growers. None of them in Tasmania!!