Poplar, willow planting season looms
Landowners keen to better protect their properties from erosion are being urged to investigate whether they might qualify for subsidised poplars and willows ahead of Northland’s looming winter planting season.
Land Management Advisor Wayne Teal with some of the poplar being grown at the regional council's Flyger Rd nursery near Whangarei which will eventually be used for erosion control in Northland.
Councillor Joe Carr, who chairs the Northland Regional Council's Environmental Management Committee, says the trees have been planted for many years to reduce erosion, help control nutrient losses and decrease waterway pollution.
"Both species have extensive root systems which help bind soil and prevent erosion and council promotes their use both as part of its soil conservation and water quality work."
He says the council is often asked why it is promoting the use of non-native species like poplar and willow for erosion control.
"While in many other apsects of council's work we actively support the use of native plants, we encourage the use of non-natives for erosion control because their fast growth rate means they're able to provide stability to our land and streamsides much more quickly."
Councillor Carr says stabilising land – and associated reductions in both erosion and and subsequent sedimentation – is essential.
"Sediment is one of Northland's biggest water contaminants and most of the phosphorous in our harbour systems has arrived there attached to sediment from erosion."
He says the best time to plant the trees in Northland is typically during the winter months of June to August and recognising their value, the council is once again offering subsidised supplies of willow and poplar pole material.
"Unlike older varieties, these have been specifically bred to weed out undesirable traits like heavy, brittle limbs and/or vigorous suckering. They also have better resistance to pests and disease and improved timber values."
Councillor Carr says the regional council will meet up to half the cost of poplar and willows for 2014 planting, but with about 4000 poles available, stock is limited with demand usually exceeding supply.
The bulk of this year's pole supply is being sourced from a Cambridge supplier – about half of which have already been allocated – with several hundred more on order from the limited number of Northland-based suppliers offering them.
"That demand and relative lack of local supply is one of the reasons council decided to invest in its own poplar and willow nursery in Flyger Rd, Mata last year."
He says the council has spent about $65,000 establishing the five hectare nursery to date, but hopes to be able to meet much of the growing Northland demand for poplars and willows within several years.
Councillor Carr encourages those considering planting poplars and willows to contact the council's land management team on (0800) 002 004 for advice and points out orders for this year's subsidised stocks will close at the end of this month.
"There are conditions and that May 30 deadline could be even earlier if this year's supplies are fully allocated before then."
Councillor Carr says trees are usually supplied as 'poles', 'stakes' or 'wands' which have been grown over two seasons.
"Poles are larger (typically about three-metres long) than the stakes and wands which are usually about a metre to 1.5m long."
He says poles need to be transported carefully to avoid damaging the bark (creating the risk of disease or the cutting drying out) and should ideally be soaked in fresh flowing water for 8-10 days prior to planting.
There are also a number of other considerations that need to be taken into account, including where the trees are sited and the ongoing care and maintenance they'll require.
"Our land management team can help with this as well as free advice on the best species to use."