Appletons Tree Nursery Ltd, 1748 Main Road South, Wakefield, Nelson, Phone 03 541 8309, Fax 03 541 8007
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Trees and Farm Emissions

Planting trees to offset farm emissions

We have received many enquiries from farmers about tree planting in order to offset farm emission liabilities in the future.

Ideally you need fast-growing trees with dense timber, that can be planted over a wide range of site conditions. They should be wind and snow tolerant, with a low fire risk and, most importantly, be a stable, long-lived species. Is there such a tree? Probably not, but a carbon resource can be built by planting a variety of species progressively over a number of years. This reduces the risks involved in planting a single species, and gives you the option of ongoing timber harvesting.

Modelling a successful planting plan becomes increasingly complicated over time as the species mix is increased. Fortu-nately Roger May of Tomorrow’s Forests has developed a computer programming tool called ‘TFL Farm Emissions & Offset Calculator’ which can be used to input all the relevant factors and produce a graph showing how the carbon stored is bal-anced against future emissions. It is extremely interesting to see how a different mix of species and planting dates affects the carbon balance, and where opportunities to harvest trees in the future can be achieved.

From Roger May of Tomorrow’s Forests ...

Farm animals and the use of nitrogen fertilisers create emissions of greenhouse gases. Under legislation passed in Novem-ber 2009, NZ farmers will be required to record and report their emissions starting in 2012. Then from 2015, farmers will be required to pay for these emissions. There is an alternative. Farmers can plant trees on a small portion of their farms to off-set the emissions from stock by sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2) in the trees.

A computer-based calculator has been developed in Nelson to help farmers work out how to do this and to estimate the costs, savings and potential revenues from tree planting. This tool estimates the emissions from the number of cows, cattle, sheep and deer on the farm as well as the amount of nitrogenous fertiliser used (if any). The graph on page 5 shows the dollar cost of the emissions for each year through to 2037 .

The calculator is then used to design a tree planting programme to offset these emissions liabilities. Different species can be chosen and planted at different times in order to minimise both the area planted and the liabilities. The cost of tree estab-lishment is estimated (depending on species choice and the area planted) and the effective cashflow for each year is calcu-lated.
The tool can also be used to predict the value of additional carbon credits where farmers have the space for planting more than the minimum area of trees.

Note that these calculations do not include the costs of tending the trees as they grow or the value of timber from future har-vesting.

You can contact Roger on (03) 526 8719 or go to

Scenario Chart from the TFL Farm Emissions & Offset Calculator

Tapawera Farm - Indicative Annual Value of Emission Liabilities & Carbon Credits

The graph shows a farm of 654ha carrying 100 cattle and 4,000 sheep with 500ha fertilised at 200kg/ha. In this scenario, the value of CO2 starts at $25 per tonne and increases by $0.80 per annum. The red line shows the value of the farm’s annual emissions based on the current legislation. The blue line represents the farm carbon situation as a result of planting 29 hectares of trees. Trees were planted from 2010 to 2032, giving a total area of 4.4% of the farm planted in trees. All farm emissions are offset and there is $76,500 surplus in carbon credits over that period.

Source: NZ GHG Inventory 2008 and Scion Indicative Sequestration Tables

Species Planted
Pinus radiata
Douglas Fir
Pinus radiata
Douglas Fir
Planted Area
Value of surplus credits over this
timeframe is $76,500