On my way back from the north west I called in on Giles Carrabin at Paradise to see how his plantation is going. I last reported on this plantation in March 2012:
This plantation is one of the few successfully managed blackwood plantations that I know of in Tasmania and is a real testament to the effort and dedication of it’s owner. It demonstrates a number of unique features including the successful use of shelter in a windy site. Three goats now help keep the weeds and blackberries under control (see the pictures).
The regime is not one I would recommend but full credit to Giles for making it work.
A start has now been made on thinning this plantation down to the final 30 trees (it’s only a small plantation). Already the retained trees are responding to the thinning with obvious crown growth. At least another 100 trees should be thinned from this plantation this season. With plenty of spring rainfall this will be a good growing season.
While a great success this plantation still faces two major management risks:
- Thinning too slowly so that productive green crown is lost. Already some trees are beginning to lose their lower green crown due to increasing competition between the trees. These trees are losing their productive capacity, perhaps permanently. Thinning is critical to keep this plantation fully productive and allow the blackwood crowns to develop a stable wide structure.
- Under thinning resulting in too many small trees that are slower growing. This is a common problem with farm plantations and Giles said he is already finding it hard. Having devoted so much physical and emotional effort to get the plantation to this stage it can be a real challenge to then have to cut down the results of so much effort. This is one reason I recommend a much simpler regime.
Having watched the Blackwood in New Zealand video, the risks of thinning too slowly and underthinning are very real. Poorly formed crowns (with the risk of future crown collapse), and permanent loss of growth potential are a high price to pay after so much effort. As farmer Ian Brown says on the video, beware of becoming too emotionally attached to your trees.
With continued good management this plantation will look fantastic in five years time and be a real inspiration to other Tasmanian farmers.
Giles is now planning to establish another plantation using a similar regime but with a wider (3x3m) planting spacing. With such a labour intensive regime I can only support this move to a lower planting rate.