FARMERS should consider tree plantations as an alternative crop in drought prone areas of the country, a forestry conference has been told. Australian Forest Growers (AFG) today urged governments and farmers to seriously consider the role that forestry could play in alleviating climate change.
AFG president David Geddes told 300 delegates at the Australian Forest Growers Biennial Conference in Launceston that trees were more drought tolerant than many crops and were available for use as biofuels.
Mr Geddes said he had seen the effect of drought on the landscape and believed private forests on farms were a viable alternative to traditional crops such as wheat.
"I see a future where mixed farms in Australia will incorporate a component of private forestry, but there must be a strategic effort on the part of governments to encourage a move in this direction,'' Mr Geddes said.
"With drought regularly claiming large parts of Australia's grain harvest, private forests are the obvious alternative,'' he said.
But Mr Geddes said more needed to be done by the federal government to investigate the use of tree crops in the production of biofuels such as ethanol.
"Investment in government-sponsored ethanol and biodiesel research from tree crops is sadly lacking in Australia despite years of agitation by the forest industry.''
The Bureau of Regional Sciences report, Australia's Plantations 2006, released today, showed that tree farms currently occupied 0.5 per cent of available land for all forms of agriculture.