High Demand For Timber Is A Boom Waiting To Happen

Despite our being in the depths of a global economic recession , timber has never been in greater demand for use both in construction and as an energy source. Since our ancestors first learnt to use fire, make spears and build rudimentary dwellings, wood has been the principal material used to improve living standards. Timber has always played an essential role in the development of civilisation for it is a unique material with countless applications. The recent development of more sophisticated timber products has been rapid and it seems only a few years since I was offered sawdust for free to use as cattle and horse bedding. But now, every speck is required for the manufacture of wood pellets for fuel. While some problems have occurred with small home heating pellet units, the savings compared with purchasing oil or electricity are huge for the larger industrial units heating swimming pools, hospitals, hotels and other high-energy applications which all require fuel throughout the year. Prices for wood are going through the roof and the price of hardwood from Western Canada has risen by approximately 60pc since the end of 2011. The use of wood chip and logs for heating has also grown dramatically. The big question now is where will all this timber come from? Just one power station could get through an entire year’s supply from the private woodland sector if burning timber alone. Laminated beams and arches can now span greater distances than traditional wooden beams without the use of supporting columns. These beams have been used in the construction of bridges and even sports stadia and, being lighter than steel or concrete, are easier to transport and erect. Mixed species woodland has numerous advantages including increased protection against disease. The Pro Silva organisation hosted a field trip to Rahin Woods near Kinnegad recently where we saw mixed species woodland with some fine oak planted in the 1930s growing alongside beech and some assorted species of conifers. Leading the event was Phil Morgan, president of Pro Silva Europe. Continuous cover woodland management has many attractions for owners of farm forests and is a system I hope to apply to my own woods for its benefits have already been proven in many countries. Forestry in Ireland is still in its infancy and we have a lot to learn from our European counterparts. Taylor Scott International

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