25 June 2021

Largest ever pine crop heads for fire-razed hills

| Edwina Mason
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After about nine months of careful attention, the first of the new pine seedlings are set to leave Tumut’s Blowering Nursery bound for Forestry Corporation of NSW plantations. Photo: Supplied.

This week workers at Tumut’s Blowering Nursery will farewell some of their wards as they are loaded on trucks bound for their next life as maturing trees in fire-impacted regions of NSW.

The first of more than 9.1 million pine seedlings have started their journey to state forests from the Forestry Corporation of NSW’s nursery.

It is the largest crop in the nursery’s history.

The 9.1 million seedlings will join a further five million from the Grafton Nursery and contracted suppliers and will be planted to rebuild fire-affected and previously harvested plantations around Tumut, Bombala, Bathurst, Moss Vale, Walcha and Grafton.

Close to half of Forestry Corporation’s softwood plantations are centred around Tumut with about 100,000 hectares of radiata pine. Photo: Supplied.

Forestry Corporation of NSW plantation improvement manager Phil Green said following the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020, the capacity of Tumut’s Blowering Nursery received a significant boost thanks to a $2 million equity investment from the NSW Government.

The seedlings started life in October last year when the team at the nursery planted more than 400 kilograms of seed into individual cells.

“We use different seeds for seedlings destined to be planted in different parts of the estate so that they have the best chance of thriving in their environment and growing into the highest-quality timber possible,” Mr Green explained.

“These seedlings are going to become future generations’ homes and furniture”, he added, “so we go to great lengths to ensure we produce high-quality, robust plants that will produce strong and straight timber when they are ready for harvest.

“It’s a role the nursery team takes very seriously.

Mr Green said Blowering Nursery supplied – by far – the largest portion of seedlings replanted state-wide.

“Over the last 21 years, Forestry Corporation’s Blowering nursery has seen more than 150 million seedlings pass through our gates to help build homes and workplaces,” he explained.

But this past year has been different, owing to the larger than normal demand due to the bushfires with around 62,000 hectares of state forest timber plantations – about half the total state forest estate – impacted by the fires.

The areas impacted range from newly-established plantations that were planted within the past 12 months to mature 40-year-old trees ready for harvest.

“Getting to this point has been no small feat, but is an important task in bushfire recovery.

READ ALSO Nine millionth pine seed planted as Tumut nursery wraps up sowing season

This year, the nursery had 16 staff on board to help with the five month grading and dispatch program.

At the height of the dispatch program, Mr Green said it was not uncommon to send upwards of 800,000 seedlings out of the nursery gate in a week.

Forestry Corporation manages more than 230,000 hectares of timber plantations around NSW, an area roughly the size of the ACT. The majority of Forestry Corporation’s softwood plantations are radiata pine, but some areas, particularly on the north coast, are southern pine.

“The seedlings will be grown for around 30 years before they are harvested for a range of products, with many ending up as frames for the homes of the future,” Mr Green said.

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