Promoting importance of shelter

Tom Corbett is framed by leylandii trees planted in a curve to accommodate irrigators on his Mayfield farm. Photo by Maureen Bishop
Tom Corbett is framed by leylandii trees planted in a curve to accommodate irrigators on his Mayfield farm. Photo by Maureen Bishop

Tom Corbett thinks long and hard about cutting down trees on his farm - and it still hurts when he fells one.

But he is also a realist and will sacrifice trees for changes in farming practice and compensate by replanting elsewhere, or by planting a different variety.

Mr Corbett and wife Sue farm 400ha near Mayfield on what he describes as a traditional sheep, beef and cropping operation. Now, however, he is moving into dairy support and has installed centre pivot irrigation.

As a keen farm forester and chairman of the Ashburton branch of the National Farm Forestry Association, he has planted trees on the property since childhood.

''My grandfather took up this land in 1878 and ploughed the tussock. One of the first memories of my father is of him planting trees. In his later years I was doing the physical work but he was still telling me where to plant them.''

An association field day on the farm in November, which looked at planting for shelter for stock and to protect irrigators, was so successful, Mr Corbett has been asked to host a Trees on Farms workshop next month.

The free workshop is one of a nationwide series aimed at encouraging landowners to better understand the potential for trees on their property.

''I wouldn't try to farm animals in Canterbury without shelter,'' Mr Corbett said.

''The two constant things in Canterbury are water and shelter.''

He looks to the past when his grandfather cut blocks of turf, stacked them three high, strung four wires and then planted gorse seeds.

''When there was little other wood here the children were sent to get the dead gorse branches from the fences for kindling.''

There is just one small patch of gorse left on the farm. Instead there are stands of tall timber of mixed species throughout the property.

The installation of irrigators has been planned around the farm and its plantings. This has meant cutting down some trees but others have been topped to allow irrigators to pass over them. The two irrigators already installed work into a curve and trees are planted along the curve.

The wind storms of October and November have created interest in planting shelter to protect irrigators. Hundreds of irrigators were damaged and took weeks to fix with technicians brought in from overseas to help with repairs.

''There's nothing like a fright to sharpen people's thinking,'' Mr Corbett said.

He does not believe there is one method of planting - either the placement or the species - which will suit all situations and appeal to everyone.

But it is the variety and continual trial of species which makes the property a good venue for a field day.

The day-long workshops feature a combination of presentations, a short video clip and a field visit.

Morning topics include the economic impacts of integrating trees and opportunities for high-value specialty and indigenous species. Several workshops include a focus on the integration of trees and irrigation systems, including a presentation by Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis.

All participants will receive a resource pack with handouts, a DVD of the video presentation and other information.Trees on Farms workshops

by Maureen Bishop 


Trees on Farms workshops 

North and Mid Otago, April 29, Dunback. Prebble property at Mt Blue; 
South Canterbury, April 30, Pleasant Point. Stromness dairy farm;
Ashburton and Central Canterbury, May 1, Mayfield. Corbett property;
Southern High Country, May 2, Tekapo. Balmoral Station;
North Canterbury, May 6, Sefton. Fleming property, Mt Grey;
Marlborough and Nelson, May 7, Rai Valley. Morrison property;
West Coast, May 9, Hokitika. Afternoon venue to be confirmed.