Harvesting of hurley butts starts in Johnstown Castle

The harvesting of hurley butts commenced earlier this week in Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford, an operation which is part of the work of a collaborative project with members of The GAA Ash Society.

The society comprises of a number of partners including the GAA, Teagasc, Forest Service (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM)), Coillte and The Irish Guild of Ash Hurley Makers (IGAHM).

Its goals are to help ash growers to fully optimise their forests, to create a culture of forest management, to support the ash hurley-making industry and to develop initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges of pests and diseases such as ash dieback.

The Centenary Forest at Teagasc Johnstown Castle was planted in 1984 as part of the GAA centenary celebrations.

Since then the forest has been used as a research trial and has generated valuable information in relation to many aspects of growing ash including spacing, nutrient management, weed control and thinning.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc acknowledged the foresight that both Dr Noel Culleton (formerly of Teagasc) and the GAA demonstrated in establishing these research trials.

These trials have greatly contributed to knowledge transfer on the establishment and management of ash in Ireland, Teagasc has said.

“Teagasc is continuing to build on this work today. Its research programme includes breeding for resistance to ash dieback disease as well as research on the management of ash, including thinning in the context of the threat posed by this disease”.

Mick Power, Coillte’s National Estate Risk Manager, highlighted how research outputs from this harvesting will be used to guide the industry going forward.

Meanwhile, Albert Nevin, Chairman of the IGAHM said how the society is an important body which will continue to support 400 jobs in the hurley-making industry in rural Ireland.

The Forest Service estimates that there are almost 19,000ha of ash woodland in the Republic of Ireland and the Department of Agriculture has recently provided €350,000 in research funding towards breeding for resistance and also provide grant aid for the tending and thinning of ash sites in Ireland.

Pat Daly, Games Development Director of the GAA, said that having established the GAA Ash Society, the GAA is keen to ensure that challenges involved with maintaining adequate supplies of ash – and hurleys – are addressed in the most proactive manner possible.

Currently almost 400,000 hurleys are used in Ireland annually.