7 November 1997

Harvesting flexibility

HARVESTING coppice in the traditional winter months may not appeal to heavy land growers.

A study by Long Ashton Agro Forestry Consultants suggests a wider window is possible without cutting yield or harming plants.

Crops are usually cut when they are dormant, says Ken Stott. "But harvesting the crop out of season would have the advantage of spreading production, easing drying and storage and allowing harvesting machines to work in drier conditions."

Plots of willow in their third year of growth were cut at different times of the year. Those harvested in January, April and June resprouted vigorously. Others cut in July were slower to recover, while others cut in September made little or no regrowth.

But the total productivity when the first harvest and the regrowth were combined gave 33.4, 30.8, 38.1, 39.4 and 36.2 oven dry t/ha for the January, April, June, July and September cuttings. The last three are higher due to the weight of leaf harvested.

Some plots cut in summer were recut in December. Plants overcame that severe test, resprouting well in the spring producing good yields the following December. "This shows there was no latent effect from out-of-season harvesting treatments. And they did not kill the stools," says Mr Stott.n