I spent three enjoyable days this past week touring the north.
The two farms I visited turned out to be ideal for growing plantation blackwood. They also have good native farm blackwood that could be managed for commercial, genetic and other benefits.
One farm was a typical north east dairy farm with well managed paddocks, interspersed with short steep slopes, gutters and difficult corners that will make ideal sites for growing commercial blackwood. In total these areas added to about 10 ha. There was plenty of existing native blackwood some of excellent quality. The owner is keen to get started and believes the Coop is a great idea.
The second farm was a mixed business (including farm forestry) located in the north west. The farm is in a sheltered valley at 400m altitude on basalt soils. I had previously regarded 400m as being marginal for growing plantation blackwood due to the increased frost risk, which would result in reduced growth rates and poor tree form. Instead what I found was some of the most magnificent native farm blackwood I have ever seem. In addition, the landowner had recently felled some trees so we could check the annual rings for growth rates. These clearly showed that at these altitudes on good sites blackwood can grow at 2cm diameter increment per year over an extended period.
What this means is that there is potentially more suitable land than I had originally anticipated. Shelter is still important especially at these higher altitudes, but I am now more confident in recommending planting on good sites at these higher altitudes, especially if it produces trees like those I saw on this north west property.
Like the NE dairy farmer, this farmer also appreciates the commercial potential of blackwood but is cautious to invest further in farm forestry given his experience with MIS schemes, and the current uncertainty surrounding the forest industry. I’m hoping he will come on board and establish his own blackwood plantation. His land certainly has great potential.
Strong interest from the rural community
As a result of my promotion of a blackwood growers cooperative there are now over 30 ha of farmland either planted or committed to being established to blackwood plantation over the next 12 months. All of this land is ideally suited for growing commercial blackwood. This has been achieved with limited advertising and promotion. This is just based on farmers passion and belief in the commercial future of blackwood, no financial incentives, no existing coop.
I am now confident there is plenty of suitable land and strong interest from landowners. This is a significant milestone in getting a cooperative going.
However this progress and momentum won’t last long unless we get more political support and funding under the IGA. To date I’ve been running all of this off my own savings. I have no income. I am passionate about using my expertise and knowledge, and the passion and interest in the Tasmanian community, to get a blackwood growers cooperative established. I will assist existing plantation owners in establishing and managing their plantations through to the point where they are fully pruned and ready to be left to grow to final harvest. But if I can’t get funding then I will have to abandon this dream and find another source of income.
ABC Local Radio
A few weeks ago I received a phone call from ABC rural reporter Rosemary Grant. She was interested in the coop proposal and wanted to find out more. My trip north provided an opportunity to catch up with Rosemary. We recorded a spontaneous interview which I wasn’t expecting to happen. Like so many Tasmanians Rosemary has plenty of her own blackwood stories, so she appreciates its social and cultural importance. Hopefully there will be a blackwood coop story on the ABC Rural Report soon. Thanks for your interest Rosemary.
Carrabin plantation update
Finally I had a free afternoon so I caught up with Gilles Carrabin where we spent two hours marking trees to begin the thinning process for this great blackwood plantation. Read my last update to find out more.
I hope we can get the first phase of this thinning done this winter and allow this plantation to continue growing.