Designing a Farm Forest / Diagnosis, design & evaluation - steps in design / Diagnosis /
Market specifications
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Designing a Farm Forest

Market specifications

Farm forests can be designed and managed to provide a wide variety of products and environmental services for which there may be a commercial market. Products produced in farm forests include timber, oils, seed, foliage and Christmas trees. Environmental services that might be profitable include carbon sequestration, improved water quality, biodiversity and recharge control. Any product that an individual, organisation or government might be prepared to buy is a potential source of income. But markets for forest products and services can change. So farmers are advised to think about products and services that might be valuable in the future and incorporate their production into their farm forest design.

Timber is a useful example to illustrate the importance of market research. Growers must appreciate that a good log is worth much more at the mill door than a poor log. This is generally reflected in the price, but might also be evident in the level of market interest and log buyers’ preparedness to negotiate a sale on the farmer’s terms. Farmers with small forests containing average logs, often find that contractors and buyers are not really interested in their timber.

Diagram reproduced from Design Principles for Farm Forestry, N. Abel et al.(1997), published by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC); Joint Venture Agroforestry Project (JVAP)

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) studies of mills show that each processor will have a preferred target log. The target log’s specifications will depend on the markets the mill has for sawn timber and the equipment used in the processing. In one mill (see graph), the log that returns the greatest value is 45 centimetres in diameter and 5.4 metres long. Logs falling below the line not economically viable to mill. Farmers should talk to timber processors in their region about the characteristics they are looking for in logs and how they see the market changing in the future. Other specifications—for example, species, branches, presence of defects and colour—also affect value.

Because harvesting and wood transport costs are affected by lot size and site conditions, it is also worth considering forest specifications. Farmers need to consider their harvesting options and then talk to contractors about what affects logging costs. Small plantations on steep sites are expensive to harvest and may only be viable if the trees are very valuable. Farmers who want to harvest the trees themselves need to consider what skills they might need and what tree and stand specifications might affect their cost. Chainsaws and farm tractors may only be effective where log size and quality are high and the stand is open with easy access.

Silvicultural management can be used to balance and enhance all benefits expected from a forest. For example, thinning might be a means of increasing the proportion of high value sawlogs in a native forest or may enhance biodiversity by stimulating the establishment and growth of understorey plants. Grazing can be used to reduce fire hazards while also providing shelter for stock. While site characteristics, climate and changing markets affect a forest’s growth and value, silviculture remains the farm forester’s most powerful tool. But poor silviculture or neglect can result in land degradation, poor productivity or low production values.

Where there are clear market specifications it is important to be able to measure a forest to assess its value and gauge its response to different silvicultural interventions.

Making money from farm forestry
Marketing forest products and services
Tree and forest measurement

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