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  • Integrated forest vegetation management

Integrated forest vegetation management

Foresty Commission programme manager: Helen McKay
Research contact and location: Forest Management Division, Forest Research

This programme grew out of the realisation of the crucial importance of vegetation management to sustainable establishment of new woodland and successful regeneration of existing woodland.

Weeds compete for resources with newly planted trees and are probably the single most important factor preventing successful establishment, particularly on lowland fertile sites. There is a continuing demand for an authoritative source of advice to the Forestry Commission and private sector on specific weed problems throughout the UK. In response, comprehensive guidance on the use of herbicides in different situations has been produced and will continue to be updated and improved. A technology demonstrator of a web-based decision support tool advising on herbicide selection has also been developed, and a series of linked resource pages for pesticide users produced ( In general the programme serves as the source of expertise for forestry pesticide use and advises government and the forestry sector on the impacts of changes in legislation, commercial withdrawal of products and new problems (such as herbicide resistance and new weeds).

Forest Research has in the past put substantial research effort into investigating alternatives to the use of herbicides, and a new series of experiments was set up within the vegetation management programme in 1994. However, given the widespread adoption of the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme, calling for a reduction in, and eventual elimination of, synthetic pesticide use, there has been renewed effort in this field. For most weeding situations, alternatives to the use of herbicides exist, but they are nearly always substantially more expensive and often less effective than the use of herbicides. Opportunities exist both for investigation into novel forms of direct substitution with non-chemical weeding methods (such as biological control, and cover crops) and for investigation into manipulating silvicultural practices to enable an overall reduction in weeding intensities - and hence a reduction in herbicide use. Alternative silvicultural systems to clearfelling may also result in reductions in herbicide use. With correct management, it may be possible to use natural regeneration to establish dense stands of trees, and control weed growth through canopy manipulation. However, in many cases, particularly on more fertile brown earths in the lowlands, profuse weed invasions take. As in other parts of the programme, continuing research is required to refine and improve the advice available to managers.

Commissioned reports

No reports available at this time

Last updated: 24th September 2014