Ireland can support more afforestation, according to Junior Agriculture Minister Tom Hayes.
He was speaking at the launch of the report, Land Availability for Afforestation, - Exploring opportunities for expanding Ireland’s forest resource.
The report has been compiled under the auspices of the Council for Forest Research and Development - COFORD.
The report outlines the physical land resource that is potentially available for afforestation and makes a series of recommendations on how to increase the level of planting
The report was welcomed by IFA Farm Forestry chairman, Michael Fleming.
Mr Fleming stated that this would reopen the more productive marginal land that has been restricted from the Afforestation Programme since 2010.
“The report estimates that there are nearly 180,000 hectares of productive marginal land that have a yield class greater than 14 - a requirement of the Afforestation Scheme - that are not currently being farmed. It is this land base that we need to be targeting to achieve our afforestation
Programme and maximise farm incomes,” the Farm Forestry Chairman said.
The Site Classification for Irish Forestry (SCIF) system assesses site suitability for afforestation from a productivity perspective, utilising soil and vegetation data to determine productivity.
“The report also identifies 1.8 million hectares of land that are classified as being “limited” for agriculture but with forestry presenting a viable alternative land use option, particularly when you consider that the returns from forestry are comparable to cattle and sheep systems,” said Mr Fleming.
He said he would encourage all farmers to consider forestry as a land use option and familiarise themselves with the available grants and premiums, particularly in light of the changes in 2016 Budget that return the income tax free status of forestry income.