• The physical, economic and policy drivers of land conversion to forestry in Ireland

      Upton, Vincent; O'Donoghue, Cathal; Ryan, Mary; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Elsevier, 27/11/2013)
      Land use change is fundamentally a product of the interaction of physical land characteristics, economic considerations and agricultural and environmental policies. Researchers are increasingly combining physical and socio-economic spatial data to investigate the drivers of land-use change in relation to policy and economic developments. Focusing on Ireland, this study develops a panel data set of annual afforestation over 2811 small-area boundaries between 1993 and 2007 from vector and raster data sources. Soil type and other physical characteristics are combined with the net returns of converting agricultural land to forestry, based on the micro-simulation of individual farm incomes, to investigate land conversion. A spatial econometric approach is adopted to model the data and a range of physical, economic and policy factors are identified as having a significant effect on afforestation rates. In addition to the financial returns, the availability and quality of land and the implementation of environmental protection policies are identified as important factors in land conversion. The implications of these factors for the goal of forest expansion are discussed in relation to conflicting current and future land use policies.
    • The Potential Economic Returns of Converting Agricultural Land to Forestry: An Analysis of System and Soil Effects from 1995 to 2009

      Upton, Vincent; Ryan, Mary; Farrelly, Niall; O'Donoghue, Cathal; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Society of Irish Foresters, 05/07/2013)
      Private land owners have been responsible for the majority of annual afforestation in Ireland since the mid1990s, but planting rates have generally been declining since 2002. Although the decision to plant may be driven by a number of factors, the profitability of forestry as a landuse option should be an important driver and offer some insight into trends in afforestation rates. As farmers undertake most afforestation in Ireland it is important to account for the opportunity cost of lost agricultural income when analysing the financial outcome of planting. In addition, soil quality plays an essential role in dictating the productivity and profitability of both agriculture and forestry. This study examines the effects of soil quality and superseded agricultural system on the potential profitability of afforestation by farmers between 1995 and 2009. Data from the National Farm Survey were employed to identify the annual gross margins for six agricultural systems on six soil types that differ in terms of quality. The measures of soil quality were translated into potential yield classes for forestry using an existing productivity model and Teagasc’s Forest Investment and Valuation Estimator was employed to calculate the net present value of afforestation for each of the systems and soil types. The results demonstrate how the competitiveness of forestry as a landuse option is influenced by soil quality and superseded enterprise and how forestry has become more competitive with agricultural enterprises over the period of analysis.
    • The role of extension and forest characteristics in understanding the management decisions of new forest owners in Ireland

      Upton, Vincent; Ryan, Mary; Heanue, Kevin; Ni Dhubhain, Aine (Elsevier, 2017-10-14)
      Many European countries have seen significant changes in forest ownership structure, with the emergence of a cohort commonly referred to as new forest owners, mainly within the non-industrial, private forest (NIPF) owner group. The drivers of this change differ between countries but these owners frequently lack an existing knowledge base to draw on regarding forest management decisions and practices and may possess different objectives to traditional owners. As a result there is uncertainty concerning the management intentions of these owners. The provision of extension services is a recognised approach to supporting decision-making by NIPF owners but there have been relatively few studies that have sought to quantify the effectiveness of such initiatives in terms of management outcomes. In addition to measuring the outcome of extension initiatives, exploring the positive or negative outcomes can assist with the design of future initiatives. Ensuring that such initiatives are designed for appropriate phases in the forest life-cycle is important. This paper reports the results from a number of surveys that sought to explore the impact of an extension initiative, a thinning demonstration, on actual management outcomes and what characteristics of owners and their forests might explain observed management decisions. A retrospective pre-post test questionnaire was used at the demonstration to capture knowledge impacts and management intentions. A follow up survey was conducted 18 months later to investigate what, if any, practices had been undertaken. Data from a national household survey of land owners were also analysed to investigate whether the observations from the demonstration had significance for the wider population. The results suggest that the demonstration was successful in imparting knowledge to forest owners both in terms of self-reported learning and actual management outcomes. However, from an Irish perspective management decisions are dominated by forest age as the majority of the private estate is still in its first rotation. This presents a challenge to extension service personnel and to research seeking to explain management practices at a national level.