The Pine Is Much Maligned, Says Forester

June 25, 1999 The Rural News

Murray Riverina Farm Forestry's Murray Brown says as he travels around the State, he finds it peculiar that so many people, both urban and rural, are keen to malign the pine.

"While people are happy to plant exotic pastures and crops and graze exotic animals the outlook appears to be very different when it comes to trees," Mr Brown says.

"Trees should he considered as another crop and analysed as such."

He says many people believe pines destroy the environment when compared with traditional forms or agriculture. however, nothing could he further from the truth.

"These people are so caught up in the myths associated with pines that they doggedly refuse to acknowledge the facts, or see pines as a good landcare investment."

Apart from economic reasons, Mr Brown says there are many good environmental reasons to plant pines.

Twenty years of research shows that pines greatly increase soil organic matter through their fine roots which remain in the soil and litter falling from the trees,

Up to 70 per cent of a pine's biomass remains after harvest. By contrast, the bulk of nutrients in pasture or crops are removed when they are grazed or harvested. Research also shows that there is no significant increase in soil acidity due to pines. Pines use remarkably few chemicals, For example, in many cases herbicides are used only once in the life of the plantation that is once, in 30 or so years.

Pines help lower the watertable, reduce dryland salinity and help prevent soil erosion. With pines, there is minimal disturbance to the soil for 30 years or more, the life of the plantation.

Pines remove carbon from the air thereby helping to alleviate the green house effect. Mr Brown says researtch conducted at Tumut, by the Australian National University had shown that pine plantations are far from biological deserts.

Instead the study has shown that a large number of birds including the grey shrike thrush, scaly thrush, rufous whistler, whites thrush, scarlet and flame robin, all happily live in pine plantations.

Pine plantations also combined with remnant areas of natural vegetation left within the plantations act as an important reserve system for animals such as wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, possums and echidnas as they move from one area to the next.

Mr Brown says people who say nothing can he grown after pines, should take a look at the Mannus Correction Centre, near Tumbarumba, where 325 hectares of land formerly under mature pine plantation has been returned to highly productive pasture.