Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on December 2, 2004. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Prepare to plant pine, be aware of tax issues
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Now is the time to prepare land for pine tree planting, and a new tax law change will affect landowners with both small and large acreage.
Debbie Gaddis, a forest taxation specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said tax incentives for planting pine trees changed in October. In general, this change is beneficial to landowners with large acreage and unfavorable for small landowners.
"Before Oct. 24, we had the federal reforestation tax credit, which allowed landowners to take up to a $10,000 credit on expenses they incurred on established new forests. They also could take a deduction on that same money, spread out over 84 months," Gaddis said. "This was not beneficial for the industry because their expenses were much greater than the amount allowed, so they pushed to change the law."
Now, landowners with $100,000 in expenses each year can take $10,000 as an outright deduction and spread out the remainder.
"This is a huge benefit for landowners who have continued expenses. Unfortunately for small landowners, the situation is not as favorable as it once was because they have lost their tax credit," Gaddis said. "The ultimate result is they will pay more in expenses out of their pocket, and they will be able to recover less."
While this change reduces the incentive for smaller landowners to reforest, Gaddis said timber still is a very good investment.
"We do still have the Mississippi reforestation tax credit, plus timber investment returns generate comparable returns to other long term investments," Gaddis said. "Not to mention the environmental benefits to society, the possibility for recreational activities and the aesthetic benefits to landowners."
Most landowners who intend to plant pine this winter ordered their seedlings last spring, but some seedlings still are available. Extension forester Andy Londo said planning is the key to successful pine tree planting.
"Planning ahead is critical. Landowners need to be aware of where their property boundaries are, how much land they have, how many seedlings to order, when the seedlings will be delivered and who's going to plant them," Londo said. "In most cases, the landowner will work with a consultant or contractor who will take care of all these issues, but it never hurts to know the details."
Londo said improper care of seedlings between delivery and planting time is one of the greatest causes of seedling mortality. Do not store seedlings in heated buildings or where they will be exposed to warm air, sun or wind.
"A little TLC will go a long way to improving the survival of your plantation," Londo said. "Bundles should be left intact and stored in a cool place, preferably under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If planting is not to occur within 48 hours after delivery, make sure seedlings are kept cool and damp. Wetting down bundles or boxes will also help keep seedlings in good condition."
Londo said winter weather is perfect for planting pine. In Mississippi, planting typically occurs from December to mid-March.
"Just as when being stored, seedlings need the same care when out in the field. Keep them moist and cool. It's also good if the soil is good and moist, which isn't usually a problem this time of year," Londo said.
When it comes to root pruning, less is more. Seedlings obtain needed water and nutrients through their roots. Londo said when seedlings are lifted from nursery beds, they typically have about 6 inches of tap roots.
"This just happens to be the length of a typical dibble bar, the tool commonly used for hand-planting pines across the South. This helps minimize the need for root pruning," Londo said. "Make sure tree planters are using proper planting techniques, including using long enough dibble bars."
These tools wear out over time, and planters may be tempted to trim seedling roots to compensate for the shorter dibble bars. Londo advised speaking directly to the crew foreman about any concerns or questions.