Winter is the time to plant trees or reforest your harvested timberland. Planting is the last step to reforestation except for periodic survival checks. Some of the questions to be addressed in reforestation are as follows:
- What type of site preparation needs to be done and when?
- What type of pine seedling should you plant?
- What spacing or stocking should you plant?
- Where do you get the trees?
- Do you want to hand-plant seedlings or mechanically-plant the seedlings?
- How much capital do you want to invest in planting? This has a direct effect on how we prepare and plant the trees. How much does it cost to do the basic site prep and planting?
- What to expect after reforestation?
Planning is crucial in reforestation. There are many details to coordinate in the reforestation of timberland, and there is a systematic order to be followed in a time sensitive order. This process is similar when planting fields or harvested timberland.
The first step is the timber harvest. A well-coordinated and managed timber harvest helps the reforestation process flow properly and will affect reforestation cost. These two things dictate what we do to prepare for planting or site prep:
- the time harvest is completed
- the condition of the site after harvest
Reforestation Cost: Site Prep, Seedlings & Planting
Generally, the process of site prep, securing the right amount and species of pine seedlings, planting and administration of the reforestation process is in the $200/acre range to facilitate a good stand of timber on upland soils. This price will vary depending on land type and intensity of site prep. The price above reflects excellent seedlings, chemical site prep to control competing vegetation, hand-planting by a professional crew and supervision of the process.
If mechanical site prep and mechanical planting are utilized, price can range several hundred dollars per acre higher. These prescriptions and prices are subject to change at any time, and we do not guarantee them. We monitor them and do the best job we can to be competitive with pricing, but not at the risk of completing unsatisfactory reforestation. To be successful, reforestation must be completed correctly, and without cutting corners.
When and How to Do Site Prep
Site prep is done during summer until mid-November during the growing season. If harvesting is completed after May 1st, it may be advisable to postpone planting until the following year. The site vegetation will dictate this decision. The use of herbicides is essential. For example, if you are planting a vegetable garden and you do not manage the weeds in your garden, you grow weeds instead of vegetables. Forest herbicides do an excellent job in managing the competing vegetation in pine stands. The application can be done with backpack, skidder (ground application) and helicopter (aerial application). These applications work extremely well.
Mechanical site prep consists of shearing, raking, bedding and chopping. Ditching may be necessary on certain sites to ensure survival of seedlings. These practices are used in various combinations depending on the site. Burning is an excellent tool as well. All of these prescriptions add additional cost but are very necessary in certain circumstances. After site prep is completed, both chemical and mechanical, time is required for soil to settle and herbicides to be absorbed.
Pine Tree Planting Methods
Now that the site has been prepared, it is time to plant. We will determine which method of planting to do. How many trees per acre and what species of pines should be planted? Different foresters have different opinions as to what trees to plant and spacing. Some like hand-planting and some prefer mechanical or machine-planting. We have done both with excellent success. The number of trees per acre and which species to plant depend on your land, timber and wildlife management goals and objectives.
For income production, we plant about 600 trees per acre with 3rd cycle loblolly seedlings from a reputable, proven source. On upland soils, we utilize an herbicide to control competing vegetation typically applied by helicopter followed by hand-planting. Hand-planting is about 60% of the cost of mechanical-planting, and must be done correctly with fresh, viable seedlings. Proper care of seedlings must be utilized, otherwise survival will be an issue regardless of what type planting you use.
Timber Reforestation ROI
With a good reforestation plan, you can expect excellent survival and growth. Depending on soil quality, your timber will be merchantable in the 14 to 16-year-old range. Some landowners clear-cut as soon as possible, while others manage for an older sawtimber stand. By age 30, the stand should be sawtimber size. Prices for the different pine products (Pine Pulpwood, Chip-N-Saw and Sawtimber) vary by location, market and supply.
With good management, you should be able to generate a 10% return and possibly higher. Market and timing of timber sales, among other variables, obviously have significant influence on return. One advantage of timber investments is that time is on your side, meaning you can sell when the market is in your favor. Another great byproduct of a timber investment is the use, enjoyment and personal gratification of being a steward of your environment.
At Green Hill Land & Timber, we are happy to share thoughts and ideas with landowners. We help many landowners fine tune their land management plans and have great satisfaction in helping them achieve their objectives by implementing strategic timber management plans. We hope this helps you start thinking through your forest management planning