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Site Preparation: 1st Step to Regeneration

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September 20, 2019

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

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about site preparation. The first step to regeneration. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with John Kushla, Mississippi State University Extension Service forestry specialist. John, what is meant by site preparation in forestry?

John Kushla: Amy, after a land owner has harvested this timber, it is necessary to get the land ready to regenerate that next forest. Often, this involves removing unwanted vegetation from the site, and it may also include tillage or prescribed burning. All of these steps are called site preparation, and they're necessary to regenerate the forest.

Amy Myers: What is involved in site preparation?

John Kushla: After a typical timber harvest, there may be a lot of debris and unwanted vegetation left on the site. And how much site preparation is done is often dependent on the method of regeneration, whether you're going to use natural regeneration or tree planting.

Amy Myers: So, what is natural regeneration?

John Kushla: With natural regeneration, seed trees are retained for the next crop, and site preparation for naturally regenerating pines often includes spraying herbicides, and prescribed burning.

The herbicides are sprayed to kill hardwood brush and sprouts, because pine seeds need full sun light for germination. And prescribed burning may also be used to reduce fuels and expose bare soil for seed fall, because the seed also needs to hit bare soil. So site preparation in hardwoods is usually different, because we don't usually use herbicides or fire.

Timber stand improvement usually removes unwanted species well before regeneration harvest cuts. And regenerating hardwoods, the logging activities generally expose sufficient soil and provide adequate sunlight for seed germination or sprouting.

Amy Myers: What is artificial regeneration?

John Kushla: In forestry terms, artificial regeneration involves establishing the next forest by planting seedlings. And most artificial regeneration in Mississippi is with pines. With pine tree planting, the amount of site prep is determined by the method for tree planting, whether it's done by hand or machine.

Amy Myers: How does site preparation vary between tree planting techniques?

John Kushla: Machine planting usually requires a very clean site for the tractor and planter. On recently retired farm land, site preparation would require spraying herbicides to kill unwanted vegetation, usually grass. Machine planting cut over forested sites is usually done on industrial property, and is usually much more expensive, because they will invest in debris removal, and tillage before doing machine planting.

Site preparation is usually less involved for hand planting on a site, because people, while planting trees, are more maneuverable than machines, and can step over small debris. The site is usually treated with herbicides to kill unwanted vegetation, and large debris is reduced with drum chopping or a site prep burn.

Amy Myers: What is involved with a site preparation burn?

John Kushla: Burning for site preparation is usually done in the summer to obtain a hot burn to reduce large debris. Prescribed burning requires a notarized plan by a certified burn manager. You have to have a burning permit from the Mississippi Forestry Commission on the day of the burn, and having a certified burn manager on site when setting the fire. You should contact your local Mississippi Forestry Commission forester about doing a site prep burn.

Amy Myers: Is there anything else that land owners should consider?

John Kushla: Regeneration should be carefully planned. A forester should develop a written management plant which is necessary if a land owner wants to claim the Mississippi reforestation tax credit. Regeneration weevils in pine stands are also a problem on recently cut over sites. So pine stands that are cut in the summer or fall should lay out another year before planting, otherwise the seedlings should be treated with insecticides if you're going to plant back right away.

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

John Kushla: Regeneration is so important on harvested timber because it keeps your land productive. Site preparation gets that land ready for the next forest, so land owners should have a regeneration plan, and follow it.

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