Designing a Farm Forest / Design-balancing multiple goals
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Designing a Farm Forest
  Design-balancing multiple goals

There will always be positive and negative outcomes arising from establishing and managing trees on farms. Farm forest design aims to maximise the positives and minimise the negatives. This can only be achieved if the farmer’s objectives are clearly prioritised. For example, farmers may need to decide if they are willing to forgo agricultural income in the short term in order to increase their prospects of future income from timber.

The importance of careful planning and research is clear when farmers list and prioritise the outcomes they want to achieve by planting a forest. It is important for farmers to be aware that multiple outcomes are not always complementary. Good design requires some understanding of the complementary or competitive relationships between different objectives and the compromises needed to achieve an appropriate balance.

Strategies to deal with conflicting objectives may incur additional management costs or result in lower than optimal production of some products or services. It is common for farmers to accept these losses and costs in order to reduce the risks associated with single purpose forestry. Multipurpose designs often carry lower risk and are more adaptable

The perfect compromise

The following graph demonstrates why many farmers may prefer multipurpose farm forestry designs over a ‘best-bet’ approach that favours only one value. Because farmers are able to capture many of the non-timber benefits offered by forests (eg, wildlife or shelter benefits) they might be willing to accept higher costs, slower growth or lower returns from a commercial plantation. Similarly, a farmer planting trees for shelter or land protection might be willing to accept the additional labour costs associated with managing some of the trees for timber if it means he/she is able to keep the option of a future commercial harvest open.

If farmers are seeking multiple benefits they need to clearly specify their priorities and the minimum requirements for each outcome. This is where farmers need to do their homework. If, for example, shelter is the primary goal then understanding shelterbelt design principles will allow farmers to prescribe a layout that will provide sufficient shelter in the right location at the right time. Where a farmer is anticipating a commercial return he/she will need to understand the factors that determine whether their forest will be viable to harvest. Timber production is not a bonus if it costs more to harvest than the product is worth.

If trees are being grown for commercial purposes farmers should specify:

• the desired investment period—10, 20 or 30 years
• their attitude to risks—such as fire, disease, drop in prices, marketing failures
• the target product specifications—for example tree species, log size and quality
• harvesting and marketing mechanisms
• taxation or superannuation implications.

It is important to understand the positive and negative interactions between trees grown for different purposes, and agricultural production.

Agroforestry by Design It is often possible to increase the non-timber values of a timber plantation without greatly reducing the commercial return. This is the objective of codes of forest practice. For landowners willing to accept lower commercial returns in order to obtain greater non-timber values, any option falling along this part of the curve is acceptable. The costs of maximising non-timber values may be too high. If this is the only option presented to landowners they may choose to do nothing.

Timber plantations for salinity control
Shelterbelts with a timber option
Forestry for economic diversification
Steps in designing a farm forestry system
Multipurpose farm forestry makes common sense
Why plant trees?

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