A research-based extension program to facilitate the development of commercial farm forestry industries in Queensland
1 Queensland Forestry Research Institute, PO Box 21,
Yarraman, QLD. 4614. Australia.
In South-east QLD, high value, hardwood timbers have traditionally been harvested from native forest but this source will be replaced by private plantation grown hardwoods over 25 years. The challenge to forest growers in Queensland is to develop viable plantations using new taxa in non-traditional environments which are regionally diverse with respect to rainfall, temperature and soils. QFRI has developed a research-based extension program for hardwood forestry, driven by the projected needs of the value-added timber industry, private forest growers and farm forestry initiatives. The extension arm communicates research outcomes that demonstrate the impact of taxa selection, site matching, silvicultural prescriptions, and pest and disease management on end product quality.
The project maintains a web site, providing current information and advice on research results, enhanced with advisory leaflets, research papers and reports. Opportunities for review and dialogue are also created through field tours and discussion forums for stakeholders. The combination of field-based and information extension activities has resulted in considerable improvements in the perception of hardwood plantation viability and the quality and success of new private plantation establishment, particularly in regions targeted by the RD&E program.
The Hardwoods Queensland R&D project is developing Queensland’s potential for growing high value hardwoods in plantations in 25-year rotations. The experimental science is being conducted simultaneously with the rapid development of Queensland’s hardwood industry and the clear community perception of the need to replace the native forest resource with value-added environmental management. It is essential, therefore, that the outcomes of the research program are communicated in ways that inform and advise stakeholders, create opportunities for review and dialogue and promote confidence that the research is delivering the knowledge required to expand hardwoods production and use in Queensland as a sustainable, value-added industry.
The project comprises research into the challenges of improving silvicultural practices, genetic resources, pest and disease management, and timber utilisation with outcomes being progressed through high levels of interaction between these challenge programs. The extension arm of the project has a dual role in extending information and advice as well as promoting the hardwoods industry to timber processors, growers, land owners, prospectus companies, R&D organisations, community groups and regional councils. From an extensive and highly integrated research base, the stakeholders are being informed about the availability of seed and planting stock, which taxa to plant where, how to establish and manage hardwood plantations under Queensland conditions, risks from damage due to diseases and invertebrate and vertebrate pests, timber properties, potential product end uses and technologies for processing. This is achieved through a variety of face to face learning events as well as electronic and hard -copy publishing.
Promoting plantation hardwoods as a viable investment and a value-added industry.
The potential for developing hardwood plantations and products in Queensland and the expertise of QFRI in hardwoods research is promoted through a variety of media. Through electronic publishing, brochures, promotional events, invited presentations and media, the Hardwoods Queensland team is delivering the message of the commercial possibilities of working with QFRI’s hardwoods R&D to potential investors, growers and processors.
Informing through field extension
Demonstration plantings and research trials have been established to test recommended taxa and silvicultural techniques in strategic locations of the target plantation regions. These, together with older, well-established private plantations are used for promotional field days and skills-based workshops to demonstrate the local potential of hardwood plantations and the importance of adopting appropriate silvicultural prescriptions. Regular contact with community groups also increases awareness among growers of the information resource associated with the project. One aim of these promotions is to encourage the formation of regional farm forestry groups and cooperatives.
Informing through workshops
Plantation growers, managers and community groups are invited to participate in workshops demonstrating specific techniques for growing hardwoods and managing stands with, for example, thinning and pruning prescriptions for a range of forest products over the length of a rotation. Skills based workshops have been conducted in strategic regional locations in order to provide private growers with a working knowledge of plantation management. These workshops are generally delivered from a silvicultural perspective, dealing with such issues as site assessment and preparation, planting techniques, weed control, pruning and thinning. However, issues such as species selection, genetic improvement, pest and disease management and timber quality are intrinsically linked to quality timber production and so are integrated with the practical adult learning activities.
Informing through field tours and forums
Field tours of a representative selection of research trials are held regularly. These cover a range of climatic and edaphic conditions and demonstrate taxa trials, site variability, taxa-site matching, effects of silviculture practices and identify which taxa and growth stages are potentially vulnerable to pests and diseases. Representatives from the across the plantation timber industry are invited to attend and participate in on-site discussions and presentations. Forums are run annually where industry representatives are invited to discuss the progress and direction of the Hardwoods Queensland project with the research teams. The forum also fosters the collaborative development of ideas.
Plantation tours for small private growers are held regularly to promote current developments and to foster a ‘best practice’ approach to plantation management. Efforts are made to include a diverse range of expertise and plantation types in order to give a holistic view of the industry. An awareness is growing amongst industry stakeholders for the need to interact and participate in development activities (Gillard 2000). Sites visited usually include a combination of QFRI trials, DPI Forestry plantations, private landholder plantations and amenity plantings possessing older material with indicative demonstration value. Attendance from potential growers has ranged from eight to fifty people, with an average attendance being around twenty five landholders. Lower interest has generally been achieved where tours were held in areas with a large agricultural community and a low population of small landholders. However, the interest from the agricultural sector does appear to be on the increase.
Informing through conferences, seminars and invited presentations
Scientists take opportunities to present hardwood research directions and results to relevant conference venues. For example, the Managing and Growing Trees Training Conference held at Beaudesert (1998) and the Australian Forest Growers conference held at Cairns (2000) provided a valuable assessment of Hardwoods Queensland R&D in Queensland (Dickinson et al, 1998) . Conferences provide the opportunity to present the project in the context of similar research and gain feedback from highly motivated groups with similar objectives. Members of research teams are often invited to address a variety of groups with interests in plantation management. Seminars presented to other research units serve to disseminate information and prompt discussion. Industry representatives are encouraged to attend seminars running with topical themes, an example is the discussion on the status of hardwood plantation pest and disease management held in Gympie in 2000. Presentations have also been made to a diverse range of interest groups including Rotary clubs, Landcare groups, farm forestry groups, shire councils, schools and the Department of State Development. Presentations and displays conducted at rural and regional shows have resulted in excellent responses from prospective growers.
Informing through electronic and mainstream publishing
The focus of Hardwoods Queensland’s integrated information tool is a web site, which provides information for investors, growers and processors on the potential for hardwood plantation development in Queensland and the R&D project. The ‘Getting Results’ section gives current, research-based information and advice on the practical side of developing hardwood, timber properties, technologies and the market opportunities for different timber trees. In addition, a regional perspective for research results and industry issues are given for each of the regions targeted for hardwood plantation development. The calendar of SEQ private forestry events is a quick reference for hardwood field days and workshops presented by QFRI staff as well as other organisations. Other sections present details of the R&D program, outcomes, publications and a news page, summarising recent achievements, events and with links to associated media releases. Regular output from the project includes scientific journal articles, conference papers, information packages, advisory material and reports to funding agencies, clients and collaborators. Enterprise profiles of hardwood plantation development have been produced for three major geographical regions in lower rainfall zone of South East Queensland detailing current status of the industry for these regions. These profiles are intended to be an important reference point to local government, grower groups and other stakeholders in the local area.
Collaboration and networking
The project has developed an extensive network with other industry stakeholders. This has enabled active collaboration with community based farm forestry groups such as the Forest Farmers Association based in Brisbane, the Scenic Rim Farm Forestry group based in Boonah and the Dawson Agroforestry group based in Theodore. Other collaborators in research, promotion and extension have included large commercial forestry companies, DPI Forestry, Landcare groups, forestry consultants, community development organisations, DPI’s Rural Industries Business Services, Greening Australia, shire councils, and the University of Southern Queensland. Industry stakeholders are increasingly becoming aware of the need for collaboration and forming supportive networks (Crisp and Sheldon 1995). Collaboration has also assisted in the fostering of a more broad minded appreciation of other stakeholders’ perspectives regarding their objectives and plantation management regimes (Sher and Sher 1994).
Enthusiastic responses from local media to the emerging hardwoods industry have provided a great boost to the extension program. Background information regarding field tour and skills workshops have regularly been promoted by local newspapers and radio stations as community interest stories. A significant number of field extension activities have resulted in radio stations contacting the organisers for interviews on the events. Relationships with one prominent regional newspaper has developed to the extent where its editor has become a joint venture collaborator in a taxa trial.
Responding to feedback
The DPI Call Centre relays requests from the public concerning hardwoods to relevant project personnel. Formal feedback is requested from hardwoods tour participants and their responses are addressed as subsequent events are organised. A subscriber facility on the web site gives an indication of how the site is used and ensures interested stakeholders receive updated material as it is presented.
Grower responses to extension
The extension program has made a significant contribution to the adoption of hardwood plantation forestry by private landholders. A number of the plantations on private land being established by the DPI Forestry’s South East Queensland Hardwoods program have resulted from field extension of Hardwoods Queensland research. The extension program has resulted in a data base of approximately four hundred landholders with an interest in establishing hardwood plantations. The project has resulted in the formation of two community based farm forestry groups, namely the Lockyer and West Morton Farm Forestry group based in Forest Hills, and the South Burnett Future Forests group based in Kingaroy. Additionally, around one hundred and fifty private forest growers have given their permission to be included in a directory which includes details of plantation size, location and species used. This publication is designed to be updated periodically and will encourage networking between forest managers.
A survey of private foresters within South East Queensland was conducted in July 2000, with responses being received from approximately eighty people. The survey revealed that fifty nine percent of those surveyed were not deriving their income from agriculture. Of the forty one precent who responded, most were managing their naturally grown forest timber rather than growing plantation hardwoods. Most plantation growers appear to be middle aged people with an average age of around fifty years. Although most interest is coming from professional people with off farm incomes, the number of full time farmers showing an interest in plantation hardwoods appears to be on the increase. The timing of extension and promotional events to meet the increasing appreciation of landowners to industry developments is a key factor in successfully promoting interest and delivering information (Sneath 1999).
Integrated research program
The Hardwoods Queensland project has a field based research component comprising approximately two hundred hardwood plantations throughout Queensland. These are strategically located to encompass a representative range of soil and climatic conditions. Experimentation includes the testing of silvicultural techniques, taxa selection and improvement experiments, and tree breeding facilities. The following case study of trials in the Lockyer Valley provides examples of five such plantations.
In 1998, the QFRI and QDPI-Forestry established a series of farm forestry research and demonstration plantings on 3 representative private properties in the Lockyer Valley region. Funding for this project was sourced from the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, the Natural Heritage Trust and from the Queensland State Government. The three sites (identified by the property owner’s names) represent the main soil/site types in the Lockyer Valley with details as follows;
John & Jo Hudson. Marburg forest soil/site type (grey clays and duplex soils)
Brian & Pam Davis. Fine-textured alluvial plains soil/site type (black Vertosols)
Lionel & Diane Broad. Mixed alluvial plains soil/site type (earthy sands and duplex soils).
Approximate plantations areas for each of these sites was 4 ha, 3 ha and 5 ha respectively. On each site, the property owner was an important collaborator, who not only provided the land area for the demonstration planting but also contributed with the plantation establishment and maintenance operations.
Each site consisted of an experimental component with a species x provenance experiment and a farm forestry demonstration component where a limited number of best-bet native plantation species were planted in a mixed species configuration. On sites 2 & 3, a basic establishment silviculture experiment was also established to demonstrate the positive benefits to early tree survival and growth through the use of optimum silvicultural practices.
Species selection for both the experimental and demonstration plantings was made based on past QFRI research results. The species tested were developed on a site-specific basis and included different combinations of the main species Eucalyptus argophloia, E. longiroistrata, E. moluccana, E. tereticornis, the E. grandis x E. tereticornis hybrid, the E. grandis x E. camaldulensis hybrid, Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata and C. henryii. In the species evaluation experiments, most species were represented by a minimum of two provenances, in order to give a good indication of any location differences between seed sources of the same species.
The standard silvicultural practices utilised for these plantations was developed from the limited research information available at the time and from the standard techniques utilised by the new DPI-Forestry Hardwood Plantation Joint Venture Program. Silvicultural management involved the use of deep-ripping and mounding site preparation practices, weed control along tree rows for up to 12 months and a split fertiliser prescription with multiple fertiliser applications over a 12 month period.
In the basic establishment silviculture experiments, two species were trialed to quantify and demonstrate the negative impacts if plantation establishment and maintenance was not conducted to these levels. The species used in these silviculture experiments were Eucalyptus argophloia and E. tereticornis on site 2 and E. argophloia and Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata on site 3. In the minimum treatments, site preparation was conducted which included mounding but without deep ripping, weed control was only performed for the first 3 months after tree establishment and a single small dose of fertiliser was applied at planting only. Optimum stand management practices were uniformly applied across all treatments and included form and branch pruning as well as heavy pre-commercial thinning to reduce the tree stocking from 1000 to 400 trees/ha at age 3.5 years.
At age 3 years these 3 demonstration plantings have established well and are a fine example of the early potential productivity and economic viability of farm forestry activities on these site types. In the species evaluation experiments, there have been substantial variations in species and provenance rankings over this period (See Figure 1). Certain taxa which grew rapidly to age 12 months (eg. the two E. grandis hybrids) have now stalled, whereas other species which were slow to establish (eg. E. argophloia) are now exhibiting good growth rates after age 2 years. These results clearly emphasise the importance of longer-term growth information to enable more reliable species to site matching selections. In this case, the information from trees at age 3 years is very useful, however the reliability of this information will be progressively improved with continued monitoring over forthcoming years, until these trees have achieved maturity.
The importance of adopting good silvicultural practices for tree establishment and management was confirmed from the results obtained in the two basic establishment silviculture experiments at age 3 years. On both sites and for all species, maintaining weed control for a minimum period of 12 months resulted in improvements in survival, height and diameter growth of up to 12%, 24% and 49% respectively, over treatments where weed control was only maintained for the first 3 months. On these ex-agricultural soils, the different fertiliser treatments had less effect on tree growth rates (particularly height) although trees were up to 20% greater in diameter in the maximum fertiliser treatments. For site preparation, there was no differences observed for survival, height or diameter growth between the ripped/mounded and mounded only treatments.
The successful establishment of these 3 research and demonstration plantings in the Lockyer Valley is largely attributed to a combination of good initial planning and species selection, excellent land-holder collaboration and the adoption and continuation of optimum silvicultural practices over a sustained period of 3.5 years. As a result, these plantings have been extensively used as important farm forestry extension examples for both the Lockyer Valley and neighbouring regions, by both government and private forestry groups. These have included regular promotional field days, hardwood plantations industry tours and skill based workshops, involving close collaboration with local community organisations such as Landcare and the Lockyer and West Moreton Farm Forestry Group.
Figure 1: Cumulative tree heights for Lockyer Valley Experiments to age 3 years.
The monitoring of well-designed and maintained research experiments within the Hardwoods Queensland plantations provides a valuable source of growth and productivity data which is regularly summarised and communicated through field extension activities, as well as through conferences, seminars, invited presentations and electronic and mainstream publishing. The highly integrated and comprehensive approach to utilising these trials for the development of optimal silviculture, genetics, pests and diseases and wood products related prescriptions provides a unique opportunity for sustaining a viable hardwood plantation industry. Through continued maintenance and monitoring of these plantings over a long and sustained period, the QFRI will be able to deliver highly accurate longer-term productivity and economic viability estimates for farm forestry ventures in this and similar regions throughout Queensland (Leggate et al. 2000).
1. Crisp, J. and Sheldon, E. (1995). Futures Workshop for the Wickepin Shire. In: From the Field- extension in practice. 1995, Vol. 1, 51-57.
2. Dickinson, G.R., Lewty M.J. and White, F.P. (1998). Growing eucalypt plantations in south-east Queensland: Current Forestry prescriptions and new directions. Proc. of the 1998 Managing and Growing Trees Training Conference (ed. A. Grodecki). Kooralbyn, Australia, October 1998. p381-385
3. Dickinson, G., Lewty, M. and White, P. (1999). Growing eucalypt plantations in southern Queensland: Current Forestry prescriptions and new directions. Unpublished submission paper to the M.A.G.O.T.T. conference 1999
4. Gillard, E. (2000). Understanding the effect of Change- Chosen and Unchosen Change. In: Building Rural Leaders- Change Management. February, 2000, 1-5.
5. Leggate, W., Palmer, G., McGavin, R. and Muneri, A. (2000). Productivity, Sawn Recovery and Potential Rates of Return from Eucalypt Plantations in Queensland. In The Future of Eucalypts for Wood Products – IUFRO Conference, Launceston, Tasmania, 19th – 24th March, 2000.
6. Sher, J. and Sher, K. (1994). Beyond the Conventional Wisdom: rural Development as if Australia’s Rural People and Communities Really Mattered. In: Journal of Research in Rural Education, Spring, 1994, Vol. 10, No.1, 2-43.
7. Sneath, R. (1999). Developing the “Storelink” Beef Marketing Workshop Series. In: From the Field- extension in practice. August 1999, Vol. 4, 41-48.