In the past, Ireland was covered in native woodlands, consisting of species such as oak, ash, alder and birch. Centuries of deforestation for agriculture and timber has resulted in few remaining native woodlands, with small pockets scattered around the country. Ireland has one of the lowest forestry land-covers in Europe, currently standing at 11% (770,020 ha) in comparison to the EU average of 38%.
In the Climate Action Plan, a land-cover target of 18% is set, with 8000 hectares of additional planting needed per year to meet this target. Farms are the best suited to take advantage of this.
There are many companies in Ireland with a long history of forestry plantation establishment and management. We provide information on the perfect provider for you while offering advice on what’s the best option to maximise return in your investment while also benefitting the environment.
Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme
The grant consists of two payments. The first is immediately after planting the area and the remainder of the grant no sooner than four years after planting, to ensure the successful establishment of the forest.
It's common practice for the forestry contractor to use this initial grant to establish the forest and manage it for the first four years. Some forestry companies charge a consultancy fee instead. Any additional cost is usually attributed to extra fencing costs.
A premium is also given yearly for a maximum period of 15 years. The premium is per hectare and depends on the GPC category of the plantation. This is given directly to the land owner.
Grants are also available for fencing. Aside from government grants, income is obtained throughout the life of the forest. Thinning of the forest is required at various stages, with the smaller trees being sold to various industries resulting in profit for the owner.
Finally the forest is harvested once mature, resulting in a large return on initial investment. This harvested wood goes on to support a home-grown timber industry that is essential for a country to reduce CO2 emissions and reliance on imports.
Establishment Grant Rates (€/ha)
Establishment Premium Rates (€/ha)
GPC 1 (Unenclosed)
Usually consists of upland or marginal land. Total unenclosed planting cannot exceed 20% of total forestry planted.
GPC 2 (Sitka Spruce/ Lodgepole Pine)
Consists of plantations comprised of Sitka Spruce and Lodgepole Pine, two non-native tree species. These plantations are not favourable to the environment and support very few plant and animal species. Doesn't fulfill scheme requirements if planted as the sole tree species. One must include other GPC's in their plantation.
GPC 3 (10% Diverse Conifer/Broadleaf)
Mix of Sitka Spruce/Lodgepole Pine intermixed with at least 10% of other conifer species, e.g. Scots Pine, Douglas Fir and Norway Spruce. Broadleaves planted near watercourses and roads can also make up this 10%.
GPC 4 (Diverse Conifer)
Consists of more environmentally beneficial conifer species such as the native Scots Pine or Douglas Fir and Norway Spruce.
GPC 5 (Broadleaf)
Broadleaf species other than Oak and Beech which belong to other GPC categoriees. Species covered by this category include Sycamore, Maple and Wild Cherry.
GPC 6 (Oak)
This category consitsts of a pure Oak plantation, which supports an abundant amount of plant and animal life. Other species may be planted to protect the Oak saplings during early years of the plantation.
GPC 7 (Beech)
Pure Beech Plantation. Similar to GPC 6, other species may be planted to protect the saplings.
GPC 8 (Alder/Birch)
Pure Alder or Improved Birch. Improved Birch are Birch trees which have been chosen and bred to have desirable characteristics which make them more suitable to commercial forestry. Up to 10% of tree species in this category can be other species to improve overall diversity of the plantation.
GPC 9 and GPC 10 (Native Woodland Establishment)
The most environmentally beneficial category. It supports the establishment of new native woodlands, with an emphasis on native species and management of the plantation resulting in improved biodiversity in the area.
GPC 11 (Agroforestry)
This category is a combination of trees and pasture. Silage and hay production is permitted under this category.
GPC 12 (Forestry for Fibre)
Involves the production of fast-growing tree species for use in the biomass industry e.g. Eucalyptus and Poplar. Produced over a short period of time of around 10 - 15 years.
The most commonly planted type of tree is the sitka spruce, a non-native fast growing species.
Unfortunately this species does not support a healthy ecosystem, as the trees block out all light to the ground, suffocating any potential growth from native species.
The ideal plantation with regards to increased biodiversity would be a mix of native broadleaf trees, such as oak, ash and alder. These forests would support a wide range of native plant and animal species, similar to conditions prior to the arrival of people in Ireland. This is what we encourage, to ensure that our native woodlands are not lost in time. The largest grants are also available for native broadleaf species to encourage reestablishment of our native woodlands.
A solely broadleaf plantation is unfortunately an uneconomical option as broadleaf trees are much slower growing than conifers.
A compromise is to include a broadleaf plantation amongst a coniferous tree plantation, restoring some of Ireland’s lost biodiversity while also insuring a sizeable investment return.
There are of course several other factors to consider which will determine what plantation type is most suited to your land. Registered foresters that we link you up with will survey your land to ascertain what is the best path forward.
Grian Forestry Quote
We will determine how much you can make by planting your land with the different GPC categories of trees. We will then link you up with experienced contractors who will assist you throughout the lifetime of your plantation