FIFTEEN YEARS of research by scientists across Australia has significantly improved the opportunities for farmers and catchment managers to make farm forestry a profitable and productive component of their business.
The Joint Venture Agroforestry Program (JVAP), a partnership between Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC), Land & Water Australia (LWA) and Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA), recognised the achievement in a special report.
“This research brought together the expertise of CSIRO, universities, state government agencies, co-operative research centres and forestry consultants,” said Dr Alex Campbell, RIRDC board member and chair of the JVAP Technical Advisory Committee.
“It covers issues ranging from the role of farm trees in shelter, salinity and biodiversity to the establishment, management, harvesting and marketing of trees and their products.”
The report synthesises what is currently known, mostly from JVAP research, under four main headings:
+ Farm forestry for multiple benefits
+ Products and markets
+ Public policy, investment options, grower initiatives
+ Socio-economic issues, training and extension.
It documents the outcomes of the extensive research effort from which a number of key messages become apparent:
• Emerging markets (in carbon sequestration, bioenergy and biofuels) have the potential to profoundly change the profitability of farm forestry.
• JVAP research has helped define the management strategies for farm forestry to deliver good biodiversity outcomes and environmental services. This, along with further research, can assist private native forests to contribute to the diminishing sawlog supplies from public native forests.
• Knowledge gained about the water and salinity effects of tree and shrub plantings offers insights into the new, more complex challenge – how to achieve an optimal balance between recharge control and runoff.
• Market Based Instruments (tools based on economic principles of market trade) appear useful for private native forest management, particularly where there are commercial trade-offs associated with meeting community expectations and standards for biodiversity conservation.
• There is significant potential for good returns on investment in further farm forestry research in the wet and dry tropics.
• Key regional interests must be engaged in planning research and on-ground action, particularly where large scale plantings are proposed.
• “An important feature of the report is its recommendations for future farm forestry research and development priorities,” says Dr Campbell. “These include tree crops for carbon sequestration and biomass-related industries, along with high-value, farm-grown, wood-based industries, such as short-rotation sawlogs, cabinet timbers in the wet tropics and timber products in the dry tropics.”