Is your farm wasting a valuable asset?

What do you call this stand of trees on your farm? Is it “the wood” or “our woods” or “the trees”? With a little work and planning, you could call it a “money maker” – or at least have something that delivers improved value to your cropland.

That’s the message Billy Beck, forestry specialist at Iowa State University Extension, shared at a recent Integrated Crop Management event in Ames. Beck seeks to connect farms and forestry in a state not always known for its trees. And he started with a fundamental question: what is wood?

“It’s air carbon,” he replied. “There is carbon stored in these massive beauties we know as trees.”

He said that by walking on a farm with a producer, he can see that these forest sites are neglected. And as a forester, he knows when a wooded area is overrun with invasive species, reducing the value of those areas. Still, Beck said these shrubs and trees along riparian and riparian areas can add value to cropland.

“These are pockets of land that are not optimized for carbon, for wildlife,” Beck said.

He showed a slide of a wooded area, noting healthy black walnut trees obscured by invasive species. “These are stagnant trees, but with a little management and work it could be a lucrative area,” he said. “Whether the goal is to hunt or to observe wildlife, these areas have value. “

Beck encourages farmers to connect with a forester in their area to assess wooded areas of farmland and determine potential opportunities, whether for timber, carbon storage or wildlife.

A healthy forest

Beck shared a graph showing how different trees, when young and healthy, store carbon in different ways, and this aboveground mass has value as a carbon sink when not harvested. “What is the mass of the tree above the ground?” ” He asked. “This has managerial and program implications. “

He explained that as they age, trees capture more carbon in their woody material.

“Kidnapping is more of a process. Trees use carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. And because the growth rate of trees slows down with age, slower, older trees offer less potential for sequestration, ”he noted.

Good management of these areas, such as removing invasive species and adding plantings to protect seedlings, can provide income potential. This income could take the form of high-value timber such as black walnut trees or carbon payment for not harvesting.

Start by focusing on improving forest stands, Beck advised, such as thinning trees and planting more desirable tree species. One key is to mimic the forest disturbances, which “freaks people out,” Beck said.

For example, oaks love sunlight, so deforestation or thinning out other trees that can shade these oaks can improve the health of the forest. The goal is not to have stagnation in the woods, he said.

Carbon opportunity

Beck also offered options to earn money for sequestering carbon from this wood on the farm, if properly maintained. There are services that pay crop deferral credits. These HDC payments are basically given for leaving trees for a fixed period of time.

“Forest management is allowed,” Beck said. “And there are no programs to plant trees yet.”

But bringing in a professional forester to help improve forest areas opens the door to participation in these HDC programs. He cited the NCX, which pays landowners to defer harvesting. For example, 1 HDC represents approximately 19 green tonnes of hardwood, or approximately 2,000 to 2,300 board feet, with the market clearing price of $ 19 per HDC.

Beck shared some bottom-of-the-envelope calculations on the HDC value for properly maintained areas: On average in Iowa, the timber harvest ranges from 1,000 to 10,000 board feet per acre. So 2,000 to 2,500 board feet per acre would be about $ 47.50 per acre.

A quick math shows that 10 acres of lumber could bring in $ 475 per year for those crop deferral credits. For 100 acres, that would represent $ 4,750 per year.

Beck’s example may or may not work for your farm. Whether you are looking for wooded areas for direct wood income or considering longer term carbon options, it starts with looking at how these wooded areas are managed on the farm.

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