The Valley home of our fine pines

JUVENILE radiata pines are being lifted and prepared for their journey to new plantations on farms and coupes around the state, a yearly sight for almost 40 years at the Clark family farms in the Derwent Valley.

In a roadside paddock just outside Bushy Park, a team of workers hand-pull and stack the juvenile trees in neat bundles before they’re loaded in a nearby bin. 1.3 million trees are densely packed in around 3ha of paddock, having been nurtured from seed to sapling by the Clark family.

“A lot of care goes in to looking after the trees in this early stage,” said Tom Clark, one of the second generation of Clarks to take on the crop on the family farms. The crops were first planted by Rob Clark in the 1980s, reaching around nine million seedlings during the peak years of forestry planting in Tasmania. Today, the still sizeable crops are managed with the care by Rob, Tom, Sarah and Richard Clark with techniques learnt from those decades of experience.

“We’ve learnt to soak the seeds for six weeks before treating them with a fungicide that doubles as a bird deterrent in that growing phase,” Mr Clark said. “We’ve aimed to always plant Hobart Show Day with around 120 trees per square meter and the trees grow really well through that spring and summer period.

“In addition, the soil is inoculated with Mycorrhizae prior to drilling, which gives them an additional boost in nutrient uptake. Come mid-March we begin to harden them off by holding the water back, undercutting their roots and side and top-cutting them.”

Come harvest time, the trees are hand pulled from the soil where they are inspected, bundled and tagged for traceability before they make their way to their new locations throughout Tasmania. Mr Clark said the field nursery start-to-life best prepares the juvenile trees for their new location, no matter where they end up.

“A lot of forestry companies use trees grown in containers or nurseries, but we’ve always found the open-weather trees stand up a little better to hardships and browsing pressures in both forestry and farming settings.”