Site Prep Treatments
Site preparation treatments are designed to clean-up logging debris, break-up hard pans, eliminate future hardwood and grass competition, and/or cultivate soils for drainage purposes. SFC uses three different prescriptions to prepare your site for new seedlings.
Mechanical Site Prep
Bedding Site Prep
Scott Roberts, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org
John D. Hodges, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org
Drum Chopping is performed using a large cylindrical bladed drum pulled by a tractor, dozer or skidder across a site in order to break up and crush logging debris and vegetation in preparation for site prep. burning prior to planting. Drum chopping is generally used on light to medium vegetative sites. In many instances small drum choppers are used on quail plantations, to provide better access for hunting.
Shearing, Raking & Disking is a costly, but very effective site preparation technique. This type of site preparation is generally used when converting a non-merchantable hardwood stand into a productive pine timber investment. First the all trees are shear off with a KG Blade at the stump, next these sheared trees and other vegetation and debris are raked into piles or windrows, and burned. The site is then disked with a large woodland disc to break-up the root systems of the excavated trees and brush prior to planting.
Bedding is a silvicultural practice performed prior to planting on wet sites in order to raise the planting surface enough to keep the newly planted seedlings out of the water. Bedding not only increases survival but increases growth. Raised beds are pushed up from the most nutrient rich organic and upper level soil layers.
Scalping is performed in pastures and fields in order to remove vegetation, and the upper soil layer. In old fields and pastures it is important to remove the upper soil layer, as this layer can be a seed source for competing vegetation in the future.
Subsoiling is designed to breakup the hard pan in pastures and agricultural fields. A one inch wide by 18”– 24” long blade is drawn by a tractor through pastures and fields which contain a compacted rock like soil just below the surface (hard pan). If this hard pan soil layer is not broken up prior to planting it will redirect the growing root systems of pine saplings, parallel to the surface layer. During times of drought many saplings will die because their root systems cannot reach the water laden soils below this hard pan.
Chemical Site Prep
Chemical site preparation consists of applying a prescribed herbicide application to control and/or eliminate hardwood and grass competition, which competes for nutrients, water and sunlight with the newly planted seedlings. The elimination and control of these competing species allows the newly planted seedlings to survive and grow rapidly.
Ground site prep application.
Aerial site prep equipment.
Site Prep Burning
Site preparation burning is generally performed after a final timber harvest has taken place and reforestation of the site is the objective. This type of burn is usually performed in the fall. The objective is to get the fire as hot as possible in order to reduce logging slash and debris. This type of fire exposes bare mineral soil, thereby making it easier to plant seedlings for a new forest.
In the south, we have the benefit of planting one of three types of pine timber species, loblolly, slash and longleaf. There are other species of pine, but these are the main three planted in Alabama, Georgia and northern Florida. If genetically improved species are available, they should be selected for and planted.
Loblolly is the fastest growing species; it is nutrient demanding, which means it needs to be planted on a good soil type or fertilized. Loblolly pine not only responds well to fertilization applications, this species can also handle chemical (herbicide) applications better than slash and longleaf (This can be important if hardwood/brush competition ever becomes a problem and a herbicide release application becomes necessary).
Third generation loblolly pine can be purchased, which contains some resistance to fusiform rust (Cronartium fusiform). Fusiform rust is an air-born pathogen that can cause malformation of the tree by producing a resinous canker. This canker affects wood quality and causes a weakening of the bole that causes some trees to be susceptible to wind damage. Fusiform rust disease stresses trees and invites insects (bark beetles) into a stand, many times these insects will also attack the fast growing healthy trees, causing further needless damage to a stand. Advanced development of genetically improved strains of loblolly pine has made this species not as susceptible to this disease as slash pine.
Loblolly pine cannot be raked for pine straw (an alternative revenue producer) and loblolly does not produce as many pole quality trees in a given stand as slash or longleaf. However in terms of pure volume growth, loblolly is the species to plant. Prescribed fire should be introduced into loblolly pine stands as early as possible (probably 10 to 15 years after planting). Young loblolly seedling and saplings have no fire resistance and for the first 10 to 15 years (before the introduction of prescribed fire) are prone to wildfire damage.
Fusiform rust is common among planted slash pine stands, even genetically improved slash can reach epidemic proportions (90% or greater). Slash pine is an attractive pine, if disease does not overwhelm the stand. Slash pine is not as nutrient demanding as loblolly pine. On good soils it does not grow as fast as loblolly, on poor soils it will out-grow loblolly. If slash is planted, there most likely will be no need to fertilize this site, as the soils should support good growth throughout its rotation.
Slash pine needles can be raked for pine straw, although longleaf yields a higher price per acre. Slash pine is the second fastest growing of the three pines, if managed properly it will produce an abundance of pole quality timber at final harvest.
Slash pine is very similar to loblolly pine with regards to wild or prescribed fire therefore the management approach would be the same.
Longleaf pine, the other major pine species to consider planting is the most attractive tree (appearance) of the three. It is slower growing and can remain in the grass stage for three years or longer (most longleaf seedlings leave the grass stage in 18 months). Because longleaf pine seedlings come out of the grass stage at various times, this species lacks growth uniformity, which, like slow growth, can delay thinning, up to 20 years of age (15 years in an old field situation). In the past longleaf has been extremely difficult to establish, however with the development of containerized seedlings this problem has virtually been eliminated. Longleaf still remains more difficult and costly to establish than slash or loblolly.
Longleaf is not as nutrient demanding as loblolly or slash, therefore fertilization is not necessary. In extremely poor, dry soils, longleaf will out-grow loblolly or slash.
Longleaf has a higher tolerance for fire than loblolly or slash, making it more manageable and wildlife friendly. A prescribed burning program can begin the year following planting making this tree, the tree of choice in high wildfire prone areas.
Longleaf pine can be managed for pine straw production. Longleaf pine's long needles make this species particularly valued by pine straw producers. If managed properly longleaf also produces more pole quality timber at final harvest than the other two species.
Many things factor into the decisions we make in establishing a new stand of timber. Cost, site selection, topography, soil type, and the landowner's ultimate goal for the stand all must be weighed in creating the prescription.
We utilize both hand planting and mechanical planting (specific to the suitability of the site) in order to maintain the best survival for our seedlings. This also determines the type of seedling used, containerized or bare-root.
Containerized seedlings are grown in individual containers at the nursery and the root systems are encased in a soil plug at the time of planting. We typically use containerized seedlings with our hand plantings because the container plug prevents bad soil to root contact and j-rooting. While this type of seedling is the more expensive, this allows us to utilize hand planting. Hand planting is performed by professional tree planting crews that use dibble bars to plant the seedlings. This is the least expensive planting method.
Bare-root seedlings are just what they sound like. The roots are "bare" or free of soil when they are collected at the nursery and transported to the planting site. While they are less expensive than containerized seedlings, we typically recommend they be mechanically planted, which is more expensive than hand planting. Mechanical planting is performed using either a tractor (on level, cleaner sites) or a dozier with a V-blade attachment (on rough sites). Mechanical planting costs increase with the size of equipment necessary for the job.