You are here

Reforestation through Tree Planting

Filed Under:
December 28, 2018

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 Taylor-Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with John Kushla, Mississippi State University extension forestry specialist. John, why is tree planting so common in reforestation?

John Kushla: Well, Amy, pine forests are often harvested by clear cutting, where all the trees on the site are removed. Pines need full sunlight to grow, so wide open spaces are often planted back. Another situation that requires tree planting is when no forest has previously existed, such as on retired farmland. Finally, for degraded forests, where there are too few desirable species, it's often necessary. This is common in hardwood stands, where the best trees have been gradually logged over generations.

Tree planting also gives the landowner the opportunity to use genetically improved seedlings and control initial spacing. And with trees in rows, it's cheaper to do herbaceous weed control after planting, especially on retired farmland or hardwood plantations.

Amy Myers: And what are genetically improved seedlings?

John Kushla: In pines, these are often called superior seedlings, or super trees, or premium pines, reflecting the tree breeding that has been going on for over 60 years. First generation seedlings came from the best wild trees that were propagated in an orchard. One and a half generation seedlings have been field tested, and poorly performing crosses were removed from that first generation orchard. Second generation seedlings come from the best tested first generation selections, and grown in a second generation orchard. Mass control pollinated seedlings come from two known parents. Pine cone flowers are sealed with a bag, and pollen from male flowers are collected and injected into each bag. It's very labor intensive, but you can realize 50% of the full genetic gain in breeding this way.

Amy Myers: Okay. So what types of seedlings are available for planting?

John Kushla: Seedlings are sold as bare root or 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 bags and refrigerated. They are cheaper, but must be planted while dormant. That's December through mid-March. Containerized seedlings are grown in a plastic container planted with potting soil. They're more expensive, but have an extended planning season and better survival. These are used extensively with long leaf pine regeneration.

Amy Myers: Now, how many trees should be planted?

John Kushla: First generation pines, you should plant about 600 to 750 trees per acre. That's on a spacing of 8x9 to 6x10. Second generation pines, you should plant 550 to 600 trees per acre, a spacing of 8x10 to 8x9. Containerized pine, MCP, or oak seedlings, you should plant 500 to 550 trees per acre, spacing 9x10 to 8x10. And for cottonwood or sycamore, you want to plant about 300 trees per acre. That's a 12x12 space.

Amy Myers: All right. Now, what methods are used to plant trees?

John Kushla: Most planting on reforested sites is done by hand planting because people are better able to step over debris to plant these rough sites. When planting retired fields, though, a tractor pulled planter is used, and it's called machine planting. Machine planting is quicker and easier to maintain planting rows.

Amy Myers: So how should tree seedlings be handled when doing this?

John Kushla: Seedlings should be kept refrigerated until used. That's in storage, transport, and on the site. And you should only open the bag or bundle when you're ready to plant. Keep the seedling roots wet until planted by using a planting bag or hopper with water in it. Plant roots straight down below the root collar and heel them in. Long leaf pines should be planted at the root collar. Planting holes should be kept deep to avoid bending the roots when pushing the tree into the planting hole.

Amy Myers: So give me a summary of what we've talked about today.

John Kushla: Tree planting after harvest is a very common method of regeneration. You have the advantage of planting genetically improved stock at controlled spacing. We have publications available on seedlings, nurseries, and planting, and if you'd like one, contact me at 662-566-8013, or call your local extension office.

Amy Myers: Today, we've been speaking with John Kushla, forestry specialist. I'm Amy Taylor-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

Select Your County Office