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BIHIP during 2005

Peter Savill (Chairman of BIHIP) and John Fennessy (Chairman of BIHIP’s Oak group).



Graham Taylor, new Chairman of the BIHIP Ash Group


Geraint Richards, Head Forester of the Duchy of Cornwall Woodlands and new Chairman of the BIHIP Sweet Chestnut Group



There have been a number of changes in the management of BIHIP during 2005. John Davis, BIHIP Treasurer and founder Chairman of the Ash Group, has decided to concentrate his efforts on fundraising for BIHIP, so Graham Taylor (of Pryor and Rickett Silviculture, Hereford) has taken over as Chairman and Pat Doody (of Coilte) as Vice- Chairman of the Ash Group. Miles Barne is now concentrating his efforts on leading the European Squirrel Initiative, and John Fennessy (of COFORD) has succeeded him as Chairman of the Oak Group with Bede Howell as Vice-Chairman. James Johnston, founder Chairman of the Sweet Chestnut Group decided to retire, after many years in the post, and his place has been taken by Geraint Richards, Head Forester of the Duchy of Cornwall Woodlands. Robin Bircham, on moving to live in France, has retired as Chairman of the Walnut Group, and Sir Benjamin Slade has succeeded him. Finally, Joanna Clark has become Secretary of no fewer than three of the BIHIP Species Groups: Oak, Ash and Walnut. We welcome all these newcomers, and thank the outgoing chairmen for their hard work and contributions in the past.


Field days

Two field days were held in 2005. The first, on 12 April, was organised by Graham Taylor in Herefordshire. Participants visited Wallbrooks wood, owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, inspecting an ash stand included in the original BIHIP 1991/2 seed collection, and discussed the management of young oak and ash plantations, as well as oak improvement with the ‘Duchy’ local provenance. During the afternoon, on Garnons Estate the party visited Shawles where some of the best ash in England grows. There are impressive European larch/ash and western red cedar/ash mixtures, and some P1940 ash “plus” trees used in various tree improvement trials. Approximately 25 delegates from Britain and Ireland attended the Management Committee meeting, the AGM, and field day in Maynooth, Co. Kildare on 27 and 28 September – the first time this event has taken place in Ireland. It was organised by John Fennessy.

The programme included a visit to Donadea Forest Park, owned by Coillte, and to Joe Barry’s Forest at Larch Hill, Kilcock. At Donadea the group was met and welcomed by George Hipwell, Forest Manager. Peter Savill gave a short introduction to BIHIP and David Thompson (Tree Improvement Coillte) gave an introduction to earlier tree improvement work, on the EU ÉCLAIR Programme (the European Collaborative Linkage of Agriculture and Industry through Research). The objective of this programme was to improve the genetic quality of hardwood planting stock through biotechnology. The project consisted of the selection and propagation of phenotypically superior trees (plus trees) of oak, ash, cherry and sycamore. Both micropropagation and conventional cutting propagation methodologies were examined to develop clonal varieties of the four species and the project envisaged making the plants available on a commercial basis. When the project came to an end in March 1995 the following selections had been made (Table 1).


Table 1: Plus trees selected under the ÉCLAIR Programme 1990-1995.

An elite oak tree at Garnons Estate.

An elite oak tree at Garnons Estate.

John Fennessy (left) and Gavin Munro by a elite sycamore at Donadea Forest Park, Co. Kildare

John Fennessy (left) and Gavin Munro by a elite sycamore at Donadea Forest Park, Co. Kildare

Most of the selected material was grafted and placed in the broadleaf clone bank in Kilmacurra, Co Wicklow. Today the sycamore and ash selections have been used to establish a number of untested clonal seed orchards and are the basis of other improvement work in broadleaves. A number of selected trees were seen during the visit. A final stop was made at a small grove of birch and Dr Ellen O’Connor, Teagasc, gave an introductory talk on the COFORD sponsored BIRCH Programme as well as an update.

At Joe Barry’s broadleaved woodlands near Kilcock, a visit was made to the ash plantation where a lively discussion on the management of ash ensued. Mike Bulfin, Teagasc, introduced the COFORD sponsored BROADFORM Programme. The main objectives of this programme are to develop treatment protocols for the early management of broadleaved species, up to and after the time of first thinning.

The evening before the field trip, Seamus Dunne of the Forest Service gave a talk on Broadleaves – What’s out there?

For the British participants at the meeting, it was encouraging to observe how seriously quality broadleaved tree growing is taken in Ireland, in contrast to the very unsupportive official attitude in England.


Management issues in BIHIP

Among the management issues concerned with BIHIP in 2005 were:

  • Allocation of funding – BIHIP currently has an income of about £20,000 a year, of which some £8000 is very generously donated by Woodland Heritage, and most of the rest by the Forestry Commission. Forestry Commission funds may only be used for Oak, Sycamore, Birch and Ash. These groups are also supported by the Woodland Heritage funds, though this year, the Sweet Chestnut Group received more than most to support its attempt to identify 100 elite trees. The Oak, Ash and Walnut Groups also received funding.
  • British and Irish Hardwood Trust has been established through the efforts of John Davis. To date the British element has been established. The preliminary draft of the Trust Deed for Ireland has just been completed by the solicitor and was presented at the meeting. The final draft of the promotional brochure was also provided to the meeting. It is hoped that all the elements of the Trust will be in place by the end of the year.
  • The Sir Eric Weiss Prize – This prize was announced earlier this year for the best plus tree identified for each of the species groups in BIHIP. Judging of the trees will take place in 2006. At the end of 2005, the number of entries had been disappointingly small.
  • Intellectual property rights issues remain a potential problem, not just for BIHIP, but for any tree breeding organisation.
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