July 29, 2007

Northland Totara Working Group Field Day

Filed under: Forestneeds_Notices,Forestry Research,Timber Growing,Trees — shem kerr @ 6:00 am

Remnants of totara gate and fence

Held at A. Crawford property. Cook Rd. Okaihau on Saturday, 31 March 2007

The 2nd of a 3 part seminar on issues with managing totara. The 1st part being heads talking to powerpoint presentations; an hour or 2 of bums on seats,  4 different days, 4 locations: could’ve been 10 minutes tacked onto the front end of the 3rd part and saved a lot of time and money.

The field day was the most useful of the three.

The field day attendees included bureaucrats, lifestylers, contractors, and pastural farmers. At times the researchers findings or views weren’t just questioned, but downright rejected. Points of contention included: desirable pruning heights; the timing of pruning or production thinning; the role of borer in downgrade; and nutrient application.

From early times of human occupation of New Zealand, totara wood has been utilised because of it’s ease of workability, high durability, stability, fine finish,relatively light weight, along with straight knot-free stems. Those features that gave it desirability, plus a government low price policy, led to overcutting, leaving only remnants of old growth (durable) totara and collapse of the market. Insufficient effort was put into researching and managing the growing of totara (or other indigenous timber species) in sustainable forestry regimes or in plantations to enable continuity of supply. Instead, Pinus radiata, was selected for fast grown non-durable sapwood production in clear felled regimes treated as a mediocre commodity wood or fibre source.

Regenerating totara forest View under young totara regeneration

Since the removal of government subsidies on agricultural production, large areas of marginal farmland in Northland have reverted to scrub and then through to young forest. Fortunately for totara it is a pioneer species that is quite tolerant as to site, and can better thwart browsing than can most New Zealand native trees. A large proportion of this reversion has been to totara dominated forest, creating the potential for a significant new timber resource.

Pruned and thinned tight stand of totara Branchy habit of totara Tightly grown totara of similar age Northland Totara Working Group field day discussion Old growth totara stand

The Working Group was established “to support and promote research and technology transfer in the productive management of totara”. this could cynically be translated into: “as researchers, we should be milking this for as much funding as we can get away with; this is another opportunity to reinvent the wheel.”

At times the day got bogged down in discussion of what amounted to uneconomic harvesting activity. The group doesnt seem to have a grasp on the matter. Who is harvesting this knotty sap farm-crop totara? It appears that at present it is for the most part craftspeople unofficially ‘salvaging’ open grown paddock logs felled to be burned. Research indicates that on fertile sites, totara can put on annual trunk diametre growth incruement of around 10 mm; and that in trees less than 100 years old there is very little durable heartwood. There is no way that this could be and economically viable crop given competing product prices. However, Randal Austen found that a single application of superphosphate fertilizer (untargeted as to matching nutrient needs) gave faster growth rates, twice that, and continuing over at least a seven year period. With fine tuning of nutrient additions, growth rates might match similarly durable exotic timber species. The second part we might work on is shortening the time to produce significant amounts of durable heartwood. Together these two may still not add up economically.

Other factors such as soil and water conservation forestry may help make active management of totara economically sensible. Against this, totara tends to have a fairly shallow root system and might be of minimal value here.

The group has $nz265,000 in funding to demonstrate thinning and quantify the resource; to evaluate the wood quality; and to compare growth rates, stand productivity and wood quality of extracted thinnings of naturally-regenerating stands with plantation totara However.these activities of themselves wont encourage land owners to undertake ‘management (that) is required to maximise the production from these stands’. What is missing is how the land stacks up; as well as infrastructure concerns.

November 20, 2006

Field Day Reclamation: Paengaroa: Welcome Bay; Waitara



Just got in. Logbook says 855.3 km. I’ll put up the thumbnails temporarily placed first, then get back to the field day issues.

Ok, had to have a bath; eat; then had to sleep; then needed to work. Now i can get back to down-sizing the photos and uploading them. Just noticed that there’s a new way of handling photos on my dashboard – I have to get my head around that. If you click on the thumbnail then it should come up bigger along with a caption. You can click on the bigger picture to see it even bigger.

Family farm forestry
Farm forestry Reid Road Welcome Bay Flying-fox over pond Welcome Bay


August 23, 2006

Eucalypts:naturally durable, or easily and profitably grown?

Filed under: Eucalypts,Forestry Research,Timber Growing — shem kerr @ 10:45 am

Carrying on the theme of approaches to growing timber: should it be easy andE_nitens_sapwood_rot
profitable; or should we bang our heads against a brick wall? Take the present enthusiasm for naturally durable Eucalypt timber in New Zealand: what are the trade-offs in growing such species, as against growing less durable or non-durable species?


July 6, 2006

PDSETH (cont. from previous post)

Filed under: Eucalypts,Forestry Research,Hardwoods — shem kerr @ 2:46 am

These days, in a lot of societies, If you want to borrow money, the lender will want to see a buget, the cash flow forecast, and similar financial information.

If you’re a scientific researcher in New Zealand, you can go along to a funding agency with a wish list and phrases such as “we believe”, no costings no budget or financial information is required.

To futher document the DPSETH project for both growers and funders, I’m going to try to put up a timetable itemized with tasks and costs alongside. You’re going to see some gaps until this information comes in. (more…)

July 4, 2006

The Profitable Durable Strong Eucalypt Timber HOWTO Proposal

Filed under: Eucalypts,Forestry Research,Hardwoods,Timber Growing — shem kerr @ 8:57 pm

Some people with whom I’m aquainted, are vainly trying to get funding for a research project. That they may get the funds doesn’t leave the project without vanity. What was agreed to, can easily be perverted; and growers left with just a husk, or a viral project that fills an ecological niche so that no useful project can grow there. I wont give any details of the various funding applications made in that case; however, it could be useful for an historical perspective to put down my version of how the project might’ve proceeded if growers’ needs were put before the security of researchers’ jobs. (more…)

July 2, 2006

Approaches to Wood Quality: Eucalypts

Filed under: Eucalypts,Forestry Research,Hardwoods,Timber Growing — shem kerr @ 9:02 pm

In the early days of European exploration and settlement of Australia its timber was variously reported “too hard and ponderous for most uses” [James Cook]; “splits and warps” [Arthur Phillip]; “of little use for building either houses or boats” [George Thompson]; “when the gum bled out of the timber it became brittle and fell to pieces”, and ” the worst wood in any country or climate ever produced.” [J White]. Eucalypt wood was used pretty much just for rough slab huts, because the tools on hand weren’t really up to the job of working the hard wood. – The most significant Australian export of the 18th century was 1,8-cineole, or eucalyptus oil.

In the 20th century and on, one of the single largest uses of eucalypt wood in Australia been for pulp -even though the tools and knowledge to process the crop were there, the resourse was undervalued. The majority of eucalypts planted around the world have also been either for pulp or feulwood, ie quick grown high volume low monetary value crops.
In the early 1960s Australian defence scientists finally found a high value use for eucalypt wood in the synthesis of 3,4,5-trimethoxy-phenethylamine or mescaline. Later in that decade, and I hope that it wasn’t influenced by that work, Australian forestry scientists laid out the largest ever long term in-ground trial of Australian hardwoods. In 1998-9 the plug was pulled on the trial and the results were written up by Laurie Cookson in The In-ground Natural Durability of Australian Timbers. A significant finding of the trial was that termite damage only occured on sites where termites were present ( well, I think it’s significant) – and we could say the same about fungi. One could in hindsight say that someone had just spent 30 years learning stuff-all new over and above anecdotal evidence. It’s not quite the case – it was found that the rankings changed for some species depending on the site environment; and it’s this kind of thought provoking science that prods for finding better ways of finding out things. Since then accelerated testing methods have been worked out. What might have taken 30 year or more, can now be done in a matter of weeks by for example introducing bacteria and fungi or insects to the right environment in which to work on the wood. Non-destructive testing of strength of in-ground durability trials has also been developed. And the biology of the building and its site is given more consideration in design specification.

In recent years there has been heightened interest in naturally durable timber due to concerns about the toxicity of timber treatment chemical effects on health and the environment. Eucalypts have been a target for promotion because some have both durability and fast growth. Potential problems arise when enthusiastism obscures fact; when promoters start pushing a species outside of its natural range, or beyond its physiological capabilities;and/or in short rotation crops such as for posts and poles – harvested in as little as 6 to 8 years. Add to these problems the little bit of stretching that’s going on here – with at least one New Zealand promoter labelling a class 3 durable eucalypt ( not to be used in contact with the ground) as class 2 (marginal in ground use). I’m not sure wether we have another snake oil industry here, until I can tell you so.

l (more…)

June 13, 2006

Sexiness in Forestry Science

Filed under: Accessability,Forestry Research,Timber Growing — shem kerr @ 1:59 am

SawmillHandcartSome would expect that science is scientific.

Hold on.

Those doing the work are creatures of evolutionary biology. OK, so you’re a creationist. Get over it, let’s just all go along with these scientists’ preference for evolution and see where it puts them. Below the scientific facade lurks the selfish gene. Charles Darwin’s theory along with subsequent research basically states that the best mate is the one that can afford to spend the most resources on uselessness. Given a disability such as the peacocks’ tail or the Irish elks’ antlers, it is the animal with the biggest appendage, the one that is the biggest drag on resources and a threat to survival, that is the most sexually attractive. When it comes to the sexiest forestry scientist, it is the one with the most useless research project. Add on evolutionary biology’s essential tools of deception and what we used to call psychopathy, and things get real sexy. When a scientist asks for funding for a research project, what are the criteria for judging if it holds value for forestry science, or if it’s just some guy getting his jollies? (more…)

June 5, 2006

Irregular precision spacing close-close-wide

Filed under: Forestry Research,Timber Growing — shem kerr @ 3:45 am

A very attractive option for growers is to aim to grow timber crops as fast as is possible: to lessen biological, climatic and financial risk. Historically, forestry has taken the hunter-gatherer approach of an extractive industry; it has dragged its heels on progressing into cropping concepts. Even the most basic task of planting a tree has taken the path of minimal mental input. Species such as Pinus radiata and Pseudotsuga menziesii are relatively easy to establish. Species such as the cypresses can be quite site specific, or even micro-site specific. This post is about spacing regimes for such alternative or less mainstream timber species. (more…)

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