Story: Trees in the rural landscape
Once covered in forest, today rural New Zealand is mostly pasture. However, many farmers have found planting introduced and native trees valuable, as they provide shelter, prevent erosion and can control waterways. Timber from farm forestry can also be used on the farm or sold for a profit.
Full story by Maggy Wassilieff
Main image: Trees and farmland near Gisborne
The Short Story
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Trees on farms
Some farmers grow trees on their land to:
- shelter and shade buildings, crops and farm animals
- prevent soil erosion
- provide firewood and timber
- provide places for wildlife to live
- feed animals during droughts
- absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
- look attractive.
Other farmers don’t want to spend time and money on growing trees because they can make more money by grazing animals on the land.
Types of trees
Some of the trees commonly grown on farms and in rural areas are:
- radiata pines, for shelter, timber, firewood and stabilising eroding hillsides
- macrocarpas, for shelter and timber
- Douglas firs, for timber
- poplars, for shelter, erosion control, and as ornamental trees
- willows, to control rivers and prevent flooding – though sometimes they spread too fast and clog up rivers
- gum trees, for timber and erosion control.
Some important tree collections are on farms, such as Eastwoodhill, near Gisborne. This 150-hectare garden has the largest collection of northern hemisphere trees in the southern hemisphere.
Native trees on farms
Most of the trees planted on farms are introduced from overseas, and people used to think that farming and native trees did not mix. However, since the 1970s, some farmers have protected areas of native bush on their land by fencing it to keep animals out. Native trees are sometimes planted around rivers and streams, to help stop them from flooding.