Farmer writes: separating the wood from the trees
Kieran Sullivan has been thinking more about their 24 acres of forestry since COP21 a few months ago.

We established 12 acres of forest in 2008 on what was affectionately known as ‘the bog’. The land wasn’t entirely bogland but it was wet and the rushes were spreading. Not knowing an awful lot about forestry, we were initially attracted by the annual premiums on offer.

We decided to plant alder, striking a balance between time-to-clearfell (25-30 years) and the annual premium amount. There’s 10% diversity around the edges, and this is a nice mixture of oak, ash, and chestnut.

Since then, we’ve had little to do with it, apart from maintaining the fences and taking the odd admiring walk in amongst the trees themselves.

We also planted 12 acres of Sitka spruce in 2015, but more on this at another stage.

I keep abreast of forestry news and updates through Donal Magner forestry pages, so I had an idea the first alder thinnings would be on the horizon soon. When Teagasc advertised their one-to-one consultancy clinics for forestry recently, I booked in and ended up having a very useful discussion with one of their forestry specialists.

As it turns out, we won’t be taking the first thinnings until closer to 2018, or when the alder reaches approximately 10 metres. But there are a number of tasks we can get on with between now and then.

Work the land

The first thing I realised after the meeting is that forestry requires you to ‘work the land’. I’ve heard farmers dismiss neighbours who had planted, saying ‘They’d given up the land’. But this is not the case. Sure, it’s a different type of work but planted land still takes labour, management and planning.

And like any other enterprise, the effort you put in makes a big different to what you get in return. To look after your forestry, you need to control vegetation and weeds, apply fertiliser if required, check stocking density and replace dead trees, check frost/flooding damage in young trees – the list goes on.

Our current job will be to start identifying potential trees for the final crop. Alder is planted at just over 1,000 trees/acre at establishment, and the optimum is to end up with 120 trees/acre at clearfell. This reduction is achieved over successive thinnings, usually taken every four years.

We’ll initially remove two trees from around each of the potential final crop specimens, thereby giving them more space.

Moving onto the trees that remain, we’ll start ‘shaping’ them by removing forks and large competing side branches.

In a short few years, the final forest will start to emerge and I’m looking forward to bringing the kids for walks in the forest that daddy and uncle Tony planted. This brings me onto the other main reason we started planting trees – while forestry is, in one way, just another agri-enterprise, it is different also. The timeline involved means you have to consider long-term issues such as the environment, bio-diversity, and even your own lifespan!

Whatever about the annual premiums and final clearfell sales, it’s great to see ‘the bog’ supporting such greenery and growth, while at the same providing sustainable energy resources and sequestering carbon to boot.

It’s a good legacy to pass on to the next generation.

Kieran Sullivan and his brother farm part-time in Co Waterford. You can follow him on Twitter: @kieran_sullivan

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Tánaiste open to more time for Brexit
The Tánaiste Simon Coveney has stated that theEU is willing to extend the transition period after the UK leaves the EU ahead of this week's leaders summit in Brussels.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Irish Farmers Journal that the EU is willing to extend the transition period after the UK leaves the EU.

This would allow more time for negotiations on future trading relationships between the EU and UK, and possibly avoid implementation of the backstop agreed last December. The UK's wish for a time limit on the backstop was described as a “new ask” by the Tánaiste .

Coveney added that it is imperative that Northern Ireland remains in regulatory alignment with the EU to protect the all-island economy.

The EU will release contingency plans next week explaining the implications of a no-deal Brexit in three areas: aviation, food standards and citizen’s rights.

'No back-sliding' – IFA

IFA president Joe Healy urged EU leaders to ensure there is no back-sliding on the backstop and no time limit, thereby guaranteeing that a hard border will not return at any point.

While the IFA says Irish farmers' interests lie in in maintaining full access and frictionless trade Ireland and Britain, the UK government intends to leave the single market and customs union and conduct its own trade policy.

This would open the door to Britain directly competing with the EU in future trade deals, undercutting EU import tariffs and granting additional import quotas, for example to the US, Mercosur, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. That would be totally unacceptable – Joe Healy

The IFA has also raised concerns that the UK is aiming to avoid compliance with EU regulations and standards on marketing, labelling, GMOs, pesticides, geographic indications, food fraud and other CAP requirements.

With the outcome of talks uncertain, Healy has called for both a direct aid scheme for farmers to compensate potential devaluation of sterling, and a special fund to offset the negative impacts of Brexit. The size of the fund should be flexible, in order to adapt to a soft or hard Brexit as needed, he added.

Make K application a priority after extra silage cuts – Teagasc
Speaking at the Teagasc national soil fertility conference, Mark Plunkett advised farmers to apply K in fields where two or three silages cuts had been taken.

As favourable conditions allowed for additional late cuts of silage, farmers attending the Teagasc soil fertility conference were advised to apply K to those fields.

Speaking at the event, Mark Plunkett, Teagasc soil and plant nutrition specialist said autumn was a good time to apply both K and lime especially where extra grass cuts were taken. He added that by doing so farmers could reduce the likelihood of grass tetany issues and N loss in spring.

He said: “Intensively cut grass silage removes significant quantities of nutrients at harvest time and may reduce soil fertility. Now is a good time to review soil test results and develop a fertiliser plan in time for the year ahead.”

Also speaking at the conference, Dr John Spink said the management of soil fertility levels should be a priority for every dairy and drystock farmer. Dr Spink who is head of the crops environment and land-use programme at Teagasc encouraged all farmers to follow the five steps for effective soil fertility management.

These five steps include; soil testing, soil pH and lime, targeting index 3 for P and K, using slurry and manure and achieving a nutrient balance.

Dr David Wall of Teagasc said that while fertiliser inputs represented a significant cost they are necessary to drive high grass, milk and meat outputs.

He said: “Getting the basics correct by applying lime, maximising slurry and manure nutrient resources and selecting the right fertiliser product, and applying it at the right rate and right time will go a long way to improving production, profitability and sustainability on grassland farms.”

Full conference report in tomorrow’s Irish Farmers Journal

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Two arrested over stolen vehicles parts
Gardaí in Meath have arrested two men in connection with an investigation into stolen vehicle parts.

Two men have been arrested by Gardaí in Meath as part of an investigation into stolen vehicles parts. The arrests were made after Gardaí recovered a large amount of suspected stolen vehicle parts from a number of premises in Meath and Kildare.

The men, aged 34 and 24, were arrested and detained in Trim station. They were due expected to appear before Trim District Court today.

The operation involved the Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation Unit, Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigations supported by the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and local based Gardaí.

Further arrests

Earleir this week, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) raided a suspected hiding place for stolen vehicles and arrested four men in Mayobridge, Co Down.

Police said four men aged 59, 51, 40 and 37 were arrested at the scene on suspicion of handling property believed to have been stolen in the Republic of Ireland.