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Reforestation through Tree Planting

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November 8, 2019


Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about reforestation through tree planting. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. John Kushla, Mississippi State University Extension Forestry Specialist. John, why is tree planting so common in reforestation?

Dr. John Kushla: Pine forests are often harvested by clear cutting where all the trees are cut on the site. Because pines need full sunlight to grow, wide open spaces are often planted back. Another situation that requires tree planting is when no forest previously existed, such as on retired farm land. And finally, for degraded forests, where too few desirable species exist. This is often necessary in hardwood stands where the best trees have been gradually removed over several generations.

Amy Myers: Are there advantages to tree planting?

Dr. John Kushla: Tree planting gives the land owner the opportunity to use genetically improved seedlings as well as to control the number of trees on the site through spacing. With trees in rows, it's also cheaper to do other activities, such as herbaceous weed control after planting, especially on retired farmland or hardwood plantations.

Amy Myers: What are genetically improved seedlings?

Dr. John Kushla: First generation seedlings came from the best wild trees that were propagated in an orchard. Second generation seedlings came from the best field tested, first generation selections that were grown in a second generation orchard. Today we also have mass control pollinated seedlings which come from two known parents. Pine cone flowers are sealed with a bag and pollen from male flowers are collected and injected into the bags. This is very labor intensive, but you get as much as 50% genetic gain in breeding this way. We also have varietal plannings, which are clones, but these are still being field tested.

Amy Myers: What types of seedlings are available for planting?

Dr. John Kushla: Seedlings are sold as bare root or grown in a container. Bare root seedlings are lifted from the nursery bed. Roots are dipped to prevent dehydration and then the seedlings are sealed in a bag and refrigerated. These are cheaper, but they must be planted while they're dormant, which is late December through mid-March. Containerized seedlings are grown in a plastic container. They are more expensive but have an extended planting season and better survival.

Amy Myers: So how many trees should be planted?

Dr. John Kushla: With first generation pines, you want to plant 600 to 750 trees per acre. That's a spacing of about eight by nine, or six by 10. Second generation pines, you want to plant about 550 to 600 trees per acre, or a spacing of eight by 10 or eight by nine. Containerized pine, mass control pollinated pine, or Oak seedlings should be planted about 400 to 500 trees per acre with a spacing of about 10 by 10, nine by 10, or eight by 10. And finally for Cottonwood or Sycamore plantations, you want to plant 302 trees per acre, which is a spacing of 12 by 12.

Amy Myers: Now where can trees seedlings be purchased for reforestation?

Dr. John Kushla: I annually publish a seedling nursery guide listing for pine, hardwood, and wildlife plantings from across the state and in the region. Folks should contact me for a copy of it, which is called MTN4E.

Amy Myers: And what methods are used to plant the trees?

Dr. John Kushla: Most planting on reforested site is done by hand planting with a tool that digs a hole because people are better able to step over rough sites. On retired fields, you can use a tractor pulled planter, which is called machine planting. Machine planting is quicker and it's easier to maintain planting rows.

Amy Myers: How should tree seedlings be handled?

Dr. John Kushla: Seedlings should be kept in the bag and refrigerated until ready to use. Once opened, the seedlings should be kept in water. That is, the roots are kept in water in the planting bag or hopper on the planting machine. Plant the roots straight down, just below the root collar and heel in. Now this is a little different with long leaf pine because it's got a bud right at the root collar, so you want to plant just to the root collar with long leaf. The planting hole should be deep enough to avoid bending roots in the planting hole. For further questions, contact me at (662) 566-8013 or your local extension office.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Dr. John Kushla, Forestry Specialist. I'm Amy Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Forestry

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