Record 7.2 million pine seedlings

Chris Klaus, Donna Jeffrey, and Emma Tranter at the Blowering Nursery.

More than seven million pine seedlings will be dispatched from Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Blowering Nursery near Tumut this winter.

Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole said it was the largest crop of seedlings produced at the nursery in more than a decade.

“The 7.2 million seedlings grown at Blowering Nursery will be sent out to restock timber plantations near Tumut, Bombala, Bathurst and Walcha, which will then be used for house frames and other timber products,” Mr Toole said.

“Forestry Corporation replants the equivalent of almost 300 times the area of Sydney’s CBD to pine plantations each year and around 85 per cent of the seedlings replanted state-wide are grown at Blowering.”

Member for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire MP said the Blowering Nursery has 18 staff to help with the three-month long dispatch program.

“At the peak of the operation, the team sent 1.7 million seedlings out the gate in just two weeks,” Mr Maguire said.

The record dispatch will also mark the 130 millionth seedling Nursery Manager Dean Page has personally sent out the gates.

“In my time here, I’ve been involved in growing enough trees to replant around 130,000 hectares. We have grown the trees currently standing in almost half of the State-owned radiata pine plantations across NSW,” Mr Page said.

Meanwhile, pine seedlings are being planted in 3,400 hectares of State-owned plantations in the South West Slopes during Forestry Corporation’s annual winter planting program, which is wrapping up in the coming weeks.

Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Operations Scheduler Teresa Baker said around 100 contract staff had been brought on board for planting season, which runs from June to August.

“Each winter we re-establish around 8,500 hectares of pine plantations across NSW and about 70 per cent of these are in the South West,” Ms Baker said.

“This year we will be planting over 3.6 million radiata pine seedlings over an area roughly equivalent to 6,800 football fields to restock plantations that have been harvested for timber in recent years.

“The seedlings were predominantly grown in Forestry Corporation’s production nursery at Tumut and will be planted throughout the Tumut and Tumbarumba region.

“We plant in winter when pine seedlings are dormant, which makes them hardier and more resilient to the stress of being planted to give it the best chance of survival. Each seedling is planted by hand and an experienced planter can plant around 2,000 seedlings in one day,” she said.

“The ground in each plantation has been carefully prepared, cultivated and treated with herbicide for weed control to give the seedlings the best start possible, but like any crop the seedlings are still susceptible to extreme weather conditions such as snow and wind damage, so we’ll need to keep an eye on them.

“This season has proven to be quite dry, which has been a challenge because the more rain we receive the better the seedling survival rates. If the seedlings survive the next 12 months, they are likely to make it to harvest.”

According to the NSW Department of Industry, the South West Slopes softwood plantation industry contributes $1014 million to the local economy, so this is a significant sector.

“Forestry Corporation has around 200,000 hectares of pine plantations in NSW and produces enough timber to construct a quarter of the homes built in Australia each year. The seedlings we plant today will grow into the trees that are going to build the new houses, home extensions and backyard fences 35 years from now so this is one of the most important times in our plantation cycle,” said Ms Baker.