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Author Topic: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South  (Read 26972 times)

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Offline Mooseherder

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #20 on: September 18, 2009, 10:11:12 PM »
Wow.   We passed by your place on several occasions on the way up to Sautee.  We Won't make that mistake again.  ;)
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Offline barbender

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #21 on: September 19, 2009, 12:34:56 AM »
Is that Southern Yellow Ponderosa? :)
Too many irons in the fire

Offline Lanier_Lurker

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #22 on: September 19, 2009, 01:13:16 AM »
Wow.   We passed by your place on several occasions on the way up to Sautee.  We Won't make that mistake again.  ;)

Sautee, as in Rabun County?

Offline Gary_C

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #23 on: September 19, 2009, 04:24:05 AM »
I too have been working on a pine plantation thinning in the north country. My job is on state land and is on top of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River about 18 miles north of Winona, MN. I started about the first of July and expect to be done in the next week.

There is 38 acres along the top of the bluff with Norway Pine on the south side of the trail and White Pine on the north side. The area is extremely irregular on both sides of the trail down the center of the bluff and closer to the edge is an area of mixed hardwoods where they could not use the tractor and planter when the DNR planted this stand about 40 years ago.

A picture of the Red (Norway) Pine taken early this spring before everything greened up. I think the Basal Area was about 160 with 100 BA desired when finished thinning.
 



A picture of the White Pine at the same time. There was considerable mortality and the blister rust has taken its toll. On the White Pine, the final BA was 80 desired.
 



Here is a picture taken when I started showing the Red on the left and the White Pine on the right. There is one row of Red Pine on the other side of the road for some unknown reason. Notice how much light is getting into both stands.
 



This is what the Red Pine looks like after thinning. A little more light is getting to the forest floor but not as much as in WDH's stand. For the most part the forester was measuring 11 with his little gauge.
 



I too took one row and thinned two on either side for a total of five rows per pass. All of the wood was processed right in the woods with a harvester and cut to 100 inch lengths. Here is the equipment that did the work. This is all a one man operation. I can cut, process, pick up, load, and haul one semi load a day as the pulp mill is 156 miles away. However about 3 loads per week is all this old man can do.  ;D
 



The bid estimates for the job called for 96 cords of Norway, 67.5 cords of white, and 78 cords of mixed hardwoods to be cut. the estimate for Norway was off quite a bit most likely because of the widely varying density and area along the ridge. I think I have cut about 230 cords of Norway so far with some cleanup left to do. The White pine and hardwoods  estimates are closer to estimates and still to be determined. I am just getting used to the computer in the harvester and it can tell me some amazing things on a job like this. It will give me the diameters and number of sticks in each diameter range. I don't have a copy here right now, but I remember seeing the average diameter for the Norway Pine was 5.9 inches. Yes, it even has a printer right in the machine to print a summary of the job.  ;D

This is a very spectacular place. From where the equipment sits, it was 1.9 miles down a narrow road cut into the side of the bluff to the landing where the truck was parked. And on the top, here was the end of the road.
 



Along one of the roads out on the bluff, there was this place to stop.
 



And looking down river you can see Lock and Dam No. 5 and Winona in the haze in the background.
 




And across the river is Wisconsin and to the left is Wabasha, MN. This bluff is about 300 feet in elevation over the river.
 



Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

Offline WDH

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #24 on: September 19, 2009, 07:45:47 AM »
Gary, that is a beautiful place.  I did not realize that you worked alone to accomplish all the functions, even hauling.  That makes you busier than a one legged man in a DanG kicking contest  :D.

With all the limbs, I bet the processor is a pleasure to use.  Your thinned areas look great.  I am sure that the State is well pleased!   
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Offline Lanier_Lurker

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #25 on: September 19, 2009, 09:32:21 AM »
That is pretty indeed.  I did not know you had hills like that in MN.  I thought it was pretty flat up there.

The extreme upper Mississippi River is a place I want to go fishing before I die.

Offline Mooseherder

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #26 on: September 19, 2009, 10:44:52 AM »
Wow.   We passed by your place on several occasions on the way up to Sautee.  We Won't make that mistake again.  ;)

Sautee, as in Rabun County?

Yes, just outside of Helen.
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #27 on: September 19, 2009, 11:11:57 AM »
WDH, I did not plan to be the sole operator on this job but the guy that helps me sometimes could not help for a number of reasons. From the edge of the stand it takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive the forwarder down the hill to the landing, load the wood on the truck and return. It takes 3 trips for a semi load so there is four hours of the day gone.

On your stand, how did you determine how much to cut? Is it by basal area or spacing? The forester on my job wanted me to get a ten factor gauge but I just went by guess and by golly. He said I was very consistent at between 10 and 11 and always said I could take one more tree. Truth be told, I went by spacing and took the row in front of me and just opened up the spacing between trees taking the forked and deformed ones first. In the White pine stand it was almost impossible to see the rows and I just started with the infected trees and meandered thru where I could. Then I went back and opened up dark areas by taking more trees.

The White pine did better than the Red and there were some 18 inch diameter trees. The Red would have done better if the DNR had thinned them earlier as they were supressed by the crowed spacing. Blister rust had thinned the White pine but there was a lot of invaders in the stand like elm, boxelder, and ash.
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Offline Lanier_Lurker

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #28 on: September 20, 2009, 01:16:31 AM »
Wow.   We passed by your place on several occasions on the way up to Sautee.  We Won't make that mistake again.  ;)

Sautee, as in Rabun County?

Yes, just outside of Helen.

I know that area well.  Just up the road a bit from here.

Offline stonebroke

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #29 on: September 20, 2009, 07:13:36 AM »
Gary  How far do you forward it to take that long? Is it really worth it or did they give you a good deal?

Stonebroke

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #30 on: September 20, 2009, 11:28:30 AM »
Gary, in this case, I view basal area as more important than spacing as long as the spacing is not extreme.  I was shooting for about 60 square feet of basal area for this first thin.  This is about equal to 175 trees/acres on a perfectly square spacing of 16 feet between trees.  Of course, the spacing is not square, so we shoot for the correct basal area and trees/acres, and everything works out.  This is a lower basal area than most would be comfortable with, but my experience has been that to get the best diameter growth, you have to let the remaining crowns be free to grow.  Loblolly will naturally prune much better than the norway and white pine, so that is an advantage to jump-start diameter growth for us in the South.   

The stand in this pic was thinned to 50 square feet at age 13 (in 2000).  It is age 20 in this pic, and you can see the good diameter growth.  However, to be fair, this stand was hand pruned to 18 feet (by yours truly), and it was fertilized with ammonium nitrate at age 13, so these results may not be typical.
 




In general, my opinion is that most people are too conservative in their thinning, leaving too many trees to get the best individual tree growth and product lift.  For example, if pulpwood is worth 1, then small logs (we call this small log Chip-n-saw) is worth 2 - 2.5, and sawlogs (14" DBH and up) are worth 4.5.  This index is based on a typical timber market.  The moral is that you cannot afford to grow a bunch of low value pulpwood stems.  The key is to hit the sweet spot and get maximum diameter growth without sacrificing stem quality to get to the sawlog stage as soon as possible.  The average diameter of this stand is pushing 12" in 2007, so I am getting close.  After the next thin, I will be there on many of the residual stems.  Some are there already in 2009.
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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #31 on: September 20, 2009, 12:04:28 PM »
How big can you let the trees grow down south? I imagine after all the work of thinning and pruning you would want to go for a relatively big tree.

Stonebroke

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #32 on: September 20, 2009, 01:21:37 PM »
That's some fine work there by you gentlemen. Shows some pride and expertise in what you do and what you are looking after. I was also wondering about your forwarding distances Gary. With any harvesting on sites we have been brushing, it appears they have not forwarded longer than 600 meters to a landing and mostly under 300 meters. This was virgin forest before harvest. We are just spacing the natural regen, mostly red spruce some places a lot of fir and black spruce to. These spruce species don't put on girth very quick, the fir is usually 2-3 times the girth. And some places the fir isn't worth snot. We are working on a fill plant right now though, black spruce was filled into red spruce and balsam fir naturals. Sure a lot of double stemmed planted trees.  ::) But, I have been brushing an acre and a half a day.  Works out to $272 a day. ;D This is a 110 acre site.

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #33 on: September 20, 2009, 07:01:45 PM »
How big can you let the trees grow down south? I imagine after all the work of thinning and pruning you would want to go for a relatively big tree.

Stonebroke

The forest industry is the South has moved rotation age down and down over the last 15 years.  Most are targeting for a rotation age of 26 -28 years.  With conventional thinning stocking, this results in trees that are in the 12" - 14" DBH range.  With my more aggressive thinning and pushing the rotation age out to  30 - 32 years, I am targeting for a 16" - 18+" final harvest DBH.  Economics has driven the rotation down for industry, and while economics are important to me, I have other objectives like promoting wild turkey, deer, and quail habitat.  I have a very healthy turkey population.  The other day while in the woods, I saw 9 gobblers cross the woods road in single file about 15 feet apart.  I also flushed a wild covey of quail, and that warmed my heart.  The turkey, deer, and quail benefit from the heavier thinning coupled with the use of prescribed fire.  In the understory, there are many grasses, herbs, and forbs that provide the quality food for the wildlife.  I am sacrificing just a little in terms of maximum timber volume production, but I am hoping to make that up with better timber diameter and a thriving wildlife population.  I do not hunt much anymore, but my son in law and nephew provide me with venison  ;D.  I have not let anyone hunt the turkeys and quail, but I will encourage my son in law to take a shot at a gobbler this spring since I believe the population is very healthy.

The sad thing is, if you had to go and buy the land at the market price today and grow timber as an objective with the intent to show a return on investment, and if you include the price of the bare land and assume there is no future real estate or development value, you would be better off putting your money in CD's.  However, somebody has to own land, and if you do own land with the intent of holding on to it, then it makes sense to aggressively manage the timber resource.

Sorry for the long response to a short, simply question :).
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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #34 on: September 20, 2009, 07:33:35 PM »
I would think after pruning you could go for a 24 to 36 inch tree that would be mostly valuable clear wood. Or don't you have the premium for clear that we have in white pine?

Stonebroke

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #35 on: September 20, 2009, 08:30:35 PM »
No, the premium does not justify the time it would take to get that size.  The natural white pines that are the size you mention may be 75 to 100 years old or more.  You cannot afford to grow wood that size commercially in a plantation environment in this area. 
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #36 on: September 20, 2009, 11:23:22 PM »
Gary  How far do you forward it to take that long? Is it really worth it or did they give you a good deal?

Stonebroke

I was also wondering about your forwarding distances Gary. With any harvesting on sites we have been brushing, it appears they have not forwarded longer than 600 meters to a landing and mostly under 300 meters.

Forwarding distances are a huge problem on most of these pine job in SE MN. There are a lot of these pine plantations on scattered parcels that are access challenged and in bad need of thinning. Here is a picture I took earlier this spring when I orignally looked at this job. The green area is my landing on state land and the one lane minimum maintenance road you see goes up along the side of that hill to a crest, makes a sharp left turn and goes back down along another side hill, all on state land. Then it makes another sharp horseshoe turn to the left and makes a steep climb along another side hill to the top with one sharp right turn to the right, with that part on private land. Trust me, it's no place for a semi with a 45 foot flatbed.

 



The job has been very good one with very low stumpage prices because of the poor access and because there was over twice the volume of red pine that was on the sale bill. The down side has been the long forwarder travel and those machines are just not made for that, and the distance to the mill. I have now taken 25 semi loads of about 26 tons each from this job since the first of July for an average of two loads per week. Even in these slow thinning jobs that harvester should easily cut two loads per day.

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #37 on: September 26, 2009, 04:04:06 AM »
I am just finishing my thinning job this week. Just some cleanup of small skipped pockets on the pine and some Aspen to cut around the edges to remove. Here is what the red Pine looks like. I was told by the forester that it came out at a basal area of 11 on his ten factor prism. His target was 100 or 10 on the prism.

 



And here is the White Pine on the other side of the road. Target BA was 80 or 8 and actual is about 9. Blister rust had thinned it already causing those open areas.

 



I am just amazed when I compare this stand with yours, WDH. If these tracts were thinned to your levels, the buck thorn and other brush would take over. In fact the job I just finished prior to this one was on a small tract of European Larch that was about 30 years old that had done well but the pests were starting to thin it out too much. And the brush was so tall that even sitting in the cab of the harvester, many times I could see over the junk to find the trees. I usually had to drive the brush down first to see what to cut. Here is a picture from that job with the obvious uncut areas on the left. You can see the tangled brush that had grown up where the Larch had died back too much.

 



Or WDH, is is just more agressive management that prevent your stands from turning into something like this:

 



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Offline WDH

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #38 on: September 26, 2009, 06:34:29 PM »
Gary, there are two reasons that I can go down to lower BA than what you see in your area.  One is that with the original density before thinning, the lower branches have died and are no longer green.  The are dead, so when you open up the stand to more sunlight, the crown responds, but the lower bole is not affected since loblolly does not epicormic branch (where you get new branches sprouting from the bole or trunk like you see in hardwoods).  In your conifer species, you have more live limbs lower on the bole at the same size and density as loblolly, so you cannot thin as aggressively else you might end up with wolfy limby trees.

The second reason is prescribed fire.  That keeps the hardwood brush from getting established and forming a dense understory.  This whole country down here was previously fire adapted before European settlement.  The native americans used fire to keep the woods clean.  Most landowners down here do not use fire anymore, and the public perceives fire as bad.  However, it is a powerful management tool in southern pine.

Most foresters in the South are more comfortable with a first thinning in the 70 - 80 basal area range which is 7 to 8 trees using the 10-factor prism.  So, that is about 25-30% lower than what you see in your area.  The most significant difference is the growth characteristics of the target species, norway/red/white pine versus loblolly pine.
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Offline semologger

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Re: First Thinning a Pine Plantation in the South
« Reply #39 on: September 29, 2009, 09:38:56 AM »
I am getting ready to cut another loblolly stand and the forester is wanting to use basal area this time. I ve never used it so it will be a differnt learning curve. It is a firest thinning.


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