Many farmers and landowners are put off planting trees because of the long-term investment required, as it often takes 35 years even for faster-growing trees like Sitka Spruce to be harvested. However, what if you could take a first thinning from the crop in 10-15 years and harvest in 20-25 years?

Forest manager Andrew Bronwin thought his figures must be wrong: there was more than double the quantity of timber he expected. Thinning around 30 per cent of the trees in his small, 15-year-old woodland in Llangoed, Powys, had yielded more than 150 tonnes per hectare. And with current timber prices at over £50 per tonne, his five hectares (12.5 acres) had proved a gold mine.

In an article written for the Western Mail in August 2018  by Andrew Heald of Confor explains how modern breeding techniques are helping to improve the timber yield from woodland in Wales.

Productivity from arable crops has increased massively in the last 50 years, for a variety of reasons including better farming practice, use of fertilisers and improved genetics from plant breeding. Forestry is no different.

The forests now being harvested were planted in the 1970s, with seed often collected in Oregon or Washington State. Fast forward to now and we are growing conifers from seed developed from trials of breeding two good trees together, not in North-west America but here in the UK. Often, seedlings from these ‘crosses’ are propagated by taking cuttings (as you would in your garden) to produce groups of young trees with identical genetics, delivering a much more consistent crop.

There is a huge demand for wood in Wales. Clifford Jones at Ruthin said it could double or triple production of its main products – fencing and wood pellets for fuel – if it could get the raw material.

Planting rates have dropped off in Wales, partly through lack of political will and a failure to understand that modern, multi-purpose forestry can benefit our environment and communities as well as our economy. However, there is a welcome shift back towards an understanding of the need for more trees.

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