From desk to field – planting trees



A guest blog by Nigel Couch, Managing Director, Carbon Plantations Limited

The phone call came through and there was a flurry of activity at Euston estates once we knew the first tranche of whips (the young seed grown trees) has safely passed through customs at Calais. 26,000 of them were due to arrive that evening, on the first articulated lorry that had left Germany the previous day. Once carefully unloaded, checked, hydrated and secured for the evening, the race was on to manually plant them over the next five to seven days in order to give the trees every chance to make a good start. Every member of the Carbon Plantations family had a role to play. For some of us, including myself, the laptop was put aside, and replaced with connectors, cutters, reels of piping and a spade. This was going to be an exciting experience!

Planting on the Austins Fields

The bright skies of the next day heralded a 7am morning meeting at the farmyard led by the Estate and Forestry manager and our project consultant. The challenge to plant 10,000 whips a day was laid down. Risk assessments were applied. Four blocks of field had already been set aside, and the planters started on block 8 — where the bed forming, infrastructure and irrigation lines had been put in place. Each tree was planted by hand, three metres apart as indicated by the middle of three marked drippers on the irrigation pipe. A matrix of trees in diagonal formation soon appeared across the field. The adrenalin was building as nine experienced tree planters), began their journey up the rows, with whips delivered to them by quad bike and trailer.

Down the road in block 5, the second team — comprising myself and two farm workers — were already mapping out the drip irrigation on Article Hill. We marked the first tree to each row, using a four by three metre wooden triangle, and in turn laid the irrigation line at low speed on a quad bike. Each irrigation line would be attached to the main header pipe, attached to the irrigation system, which is housed in a purpose built shed. One for each block. The four metre gap between the rows helped to give you the direction. And then back for the next two rows. And repeat over 1,000 times. 10 hectares could be laid in a day, whilst ensuring that all joins were secure and checked to avoid leakage.

Irrigation lines being marked up and laid

Ahead of us in the next field, the final team led by our Estate Manager was taking full advantage of the GPS system, and a state of the art ‘bed former’ attached to his tractor to form the slightly raised beds at four metre gaps. The aim for the irrigation laying ‘gang’ was to keep pace with the tractor, albeit a field behind.

As the five days progressed, we had an interesting development. The planters, having familiarised themselves with the task in hand for this particular tree, had got distinctly faster. On day four they planted over 14,000 whips between them. They were well advanced with their side of the bargain.

By lunchtime on the fifth day, with a number of 12–14 hour days behind us, the work was done. All the teams had ended up in the same field, as has been expected as the final trees for this stage were being planted. The entire team with the support of the planters had put in a tremendous shift. The rewards were palpable. The trees were hydrated and ready to be fed with precise measurements of fertigation, via the irrigation system.

Planters making their way across prepared land
Three dripper markers per tree can be seen in this aerial shot

The days had been long and rewarding. Friends and colleagues had bonded. A few pounds in weight were lost along the way! Most importantly, 52,000 trees were beginning their journey of life in Suffolk. Their new home.

Trees whips on a trailer ready to be planted

Carbon Plantations is open for investment on Abundance until 31 July. You can learn more about this investment here.

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