REFORESTATION CHOICES We are now in the process of making plans for reforestation. Site preparation will be carried out through late summer and fall, and trees will be planted during the coming winter. There are many options open to you for reforestation. This information will help you understand the choices and arrive at your decision.   In reality your choices are endless. After timber is cut, you could do absolutely nothing. On the other extreme you could invest several hundred dollars per acre and have the most intensively managed pine plantation in the county. Our recommendation is to aim somewhere in the middle and establish a stand of trees, which is healthy, well stocked, and productive.   You should think of planting your cut over area as if you were planting a crop. You could sow corn without any work to prepare the site or plans to follow up afterwards, but you would not expect to harvest a lot of corn. The same is true with trees.   To prepare the site you have two basic options, chemical or mechanical. Each has its advantages. Chemical site preparation is generally less expensive than mechanical.   Chemical site preparation is accomplished by broadcasting a herbicide over the area, usually with a helicopter. The herbicide works slowly to kill most of the competition on site. The plants are killed, roots and all, providing a site with very little competition where the trees will be planted. This is a real advantage where hardwood dominated the site before cutting.   Mechanical site preparation involves using a bulldozer. There are many different levels to which it can be done. A common preparation for tree planting is the "triple pass". Debris and some stumps are pushed up. The debris is piled into windrows. The area is then harrowed with a heavy disk. This provides a very clean site where trees can be spaced evenly and there is no problem for the planting crew to get over the area. It also prepares the soil, as plowing a field, giving the trees a better place to put down roots. Because of erosion, heavy mechanical preparation is limited to areas where slopes are generally less than 15%.   As you would with any crop, you want to use the best quality plants to establish your new plantation. The seedlings themselves are the most essential, but, usually the least expensive part of reforestation. We will be acquiring improved Piedmont loblolly pine seedlings for you from a private nursery. They are genetically improved to have superior survival, growth and disease resistance.   You may choose from two types of seedlings. One is bareroot and the other is containerized. The bareroot seedling is the traditional choice and has been used for decades. Bareroot seedlings are vigorous and yield very good survival and growth in average weather conditions. Bareroot seedlings cost about half as much as containerized.   The containerized seedling is grown in what resembles a large test tube. It is then shipped and planted with a plug of soil surrounding the roots. By protecting and nurturing the roots, this process delivers a seedling, which is more vigorous. In average weather conditions, container seedlings will always grow faster than bareroot. In stress conditions, such as during a drought, container seedlings also yield much better survival. For this reason, container seedlings have gathered a lot of attention during the recent years of drought we have seen in the South. With long range forecasts calling for the drought to continue, container seedlings are worth your careful consideration.   Let us know if you would like for us to give you our site-specific recommendation on how to carry out reforestation on your property. We can give you our estimate of the cost of this work.   PINE REFORESTATION SEEDLINGS Bareroot seedlings have served us well for many years and will continue to be an important part of reforestation in the future. But, we now have a much better alternative. The recent droughts and the resulting poor seedling survival some have experienced are reasons we need a more reliable form of planting. One method that is showing great promise is the planting of container seedlings.   Container seedlings are the most common and preferred form of planting pine seedlings in other countries to include Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. We encourage landowners to consider container seedlings for planting. With timber prices increasing and the South the breadbasket of the nation for timber, we should use the highest quality seedlings available to get started with a new timber crop. The following is a summary regarding container seedling attributes:
  1. Increased early planting growth
  2. Increased survival - takes advantage of soil moisture through early establishment
  3. Uniform seedling size - easy to plant
  4. Root plugs contain mycorrhizae and fertilizers
  5. Machine or hand plantable
  6. Root position in the soil is greatly improved, eliminates the "J" or "L" or "U" roots
  7. Plant almost any month of the year
  8. Exact count
  9. Moisture present in the root ball provides first water needs
  10. No root loss at the time of lifting
Container seedlings are very similar to the tublings used in the tobacco industry or the container tomato plants you get at the nursery in the six-pack for spring planting.   Container pine seedlings are at the highest end of quality. You would naturally expect more expense. Planting containers including labor, seedlings, handling, and supervision cost is about 1.6 times as expensive as bareroot. This additional cost is expected to decline with more container planting.   We supervise the planting of an average of one million pine seedlings each year and see all sorts of situations. Given variables to include drought, seedling storage, labor and time for planting, I strongly suggest you consider containers for your project.   Please contact us for more details.   Guy Thurmond President