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Woodland Management - Thinning

When trees are established and have been growing for at least 15 years, they start to compete with each other for forest space, light and nutrients and this can all affect the growth rate of the crop.  Thinning is the process where some of the trees are harvested early to allow the stronger trees to continue growing well and remain healthy.

For commercial crops, once your crop is mature and is out of contract it is advisable to carry out a first or 'rack' thinning.  The first thinning would normally take place at around 20 years.  This is where approximately 20% of the volume of timber is removed by a harvester.  This is where either 1 in 5 or 2 in 10 rows are removed.

Following first thinning subsequent 'matrix' thinning is carried whereby the harvester travels down existing 'racks' and removes trees with poorer form.

Traditionally a commercial crop will be clear-felled at around 40 years.  There is scope to manage your woodland under a Low Impact Silvicultural System such as Continuous Cover Forestry.  Managing a crop using CCF can help avoid restocking obligations as the site is never clear-felled.  It is important to note that mature crops may not be suited to CCF as the crop must be managed with this in mind from a younger age.

Assuming that your crop is managed traditionally and is clear-felled you will be legally obliged to re-stock an equivalent area.  It is also imperative that felling permission is in place before any harvesting takes place.

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