More trees part of the answer to agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions

19 October 2016

The Forest Owners Association is backing the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s call for more plantation forests to be planted in New Zealand to offset greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

The Chair of the joint Forest Owners Association and Farm Forestry Associations’ Environment Committee Peter Weir says the Commissioner has highlighted the role trees, both native and in exotic plantations, can play in reducing New Zealand’s total gas emissions.

“Dr Wright’s information is timely.  Tree planting by farmers and small scale forest investors has declined in the past few years, not risen, and our log processing industry needs the extra tree planting that Dr Wright is calling for,” Peter Weir says.

The PCE Report sums estimate 26 hectares of new plantation forest every 20 years would offset a year’s greenhouse gas emissions of an average 300 cow dairy farm.

“Again, that is one important positive for more trees.  The other is that planting trees, especially on rolling hill country, is better than cost neutral for a farmer.  Returns on harvesting logs are, over the long term, higher than hill country farming with sheep and cattle.”

Peter Weir emphasises that forest owners are not anticipating planting on marginal land classed as highly erodible.

“We anticipate the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forests being introduced early next year.  That will raise a red flag on a large area of North Island hill country farms for plantation forests because the erosion risk after harvest is judged too high, and reversion to native forest may be a viable option for such land.” 

“The scope for woodlots is clearly on farms, bringing in another income stream.  Some parts of farms are more suitable for planting out trees than others.  Water quality improves when livestock are replaced by trees in the hill country – the Waikato Healthy River’s technical advice calls for another 400,000 ha of forests in that catchment, so there are multiple reasons to see more trees on farms.”

Peter Weir says he has one issue with Dr Wright’s report, which is that tree growing isn’t reliant on technological breakthroughs.

“Our industry is putting a lot of effort, science and technology into improving our standard Pinus radiata.  As a result, the amount of carbon locked up by the average stand of trees planted in Kaiangaroa Forest today will be 30 percent greater than in stands planted there forty years ago.  Looking forward, gene editing technology may double productivity and hence carbon sequestration rates within a decade.”

For more information contact Peter Weir, 027 454 7873