A strong demand for wood fuel means pioneering Aberdeenshire farmers are now reaping the rewards of trees planted 20 years ago.
Planted through the Grampian Forest Challenge Fund, the woods are now being thinned, with farmers pleasantly surprised by the high value of their timber.
Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service (FAS) says yields are consistently higher than 50 tonnes per hectare and net income can be as high as £20 per tonne, or more in some cases. Income from timber sales also has the advantage of being tax free.
Sitka spruce, the main species used in the woods, has grown extremely fast thanks to the moist, fertile soils and long growing season.
To maximise the eventual crop of high-value sawlogs, thinning at about 18-20 years is essential to open up the crop and remove poorer quality trees.
To help farmers find out more about diversifying into new woodlands, or thinning and felling existing woodlands, FAS is holding a free event in Strichen, Aberdeenshire, later this month.
In addition to providing information on grants available for the management and establishment of new woodlands, there will also be contributions from Scottish Forestry and Tilhill Forestry, which purchased the timber from the thinnings.
Lunch will be followed by a visit to Borrohill Woods, where harvesting work is under way. The work has also benefitted from new forest roads which were grant aided by Scottish Forestry.
Simon Jacyna, forestry consultant with SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) which delivers the FAS programme, said: “Forestry can be an excellent diversification opportunity for farmers and those who entered the Challenge Fund were pioneers as we have little experience of such high-yielding woods.
‘Good advance planning for new roads and harvesting is essential. There is a limited window of opportunity for the first thinning and it is important not to leave it too late.’
Mike Davis, the owner of Borrohill, said: “Forestry has been a great investment for me. The growth rate of the crop is tremendous and I am delighted at how much I will be getting for the thinning work.’
The ‘Here’s One I Planted Earlier’ event takes place on Wednesday 28 August, meeting at the White Horse Hotel in Strichen at 10.30am.
The event is free but booking is essential. To book a place, call 01343 548 787, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fas.scot/forthcoming-events/