Reforestation

The most effective reforestation method for southern pines is tree planting. The advantage of replanting cutover forestland or old fields includes:
  • Controlling tree spacing
  • Use of genetically improved tree seedlings
  • Shorter rotations
  • Improved tree growth
  • Increased value of the forestland
  • Good overall forest health
  • Improved financial returns on a forestland investment.

Pine Plantation In North Georgia
Photo Courtesy of Bugwood.org.

Many reforestation projects by private landowners can also qualify for state and federal cost share assistance.

Reforestation Considerations for the Landowner

  1. Tree species selection
    • In the south, common pine species planted are loblolly, slash, shortleaf, and longleaf.
    • Choose the tree that is right for your region and soil conditions.
  2. Where to purchase seedlings.
    • Both state and private tree nurseries are excellent sources for pine seedlings.
    • Purchase seedlings that originated from a seed source close to your property.
  3. Types of seedlings.
    • Two types of seedlings are planted in the south: bare root and containerized.
    • Bare root seedlings are usually adequate under most conditions.
    • Containerized seedlings, while more expensive, are better suited for some species such as longleaf pine. Containerized longleaf usually have much better survival rates than bare root seedlings.
  4. Site preparation
    • This is critical in order to ensure the establishment of the new forest.
    • Site preparation controls competing vegetation, removes logging debris, and often prepares the soil before planting.
    • Site prep can be mechanical, chemical, or a combination of both.
  5. Fertilization
    • Some soils require fertilization to ensure good survival, and in other cases, fertilization increases early tree growth.
    • Careful analysis of the site conditions and cost will be needed in order to determine if fertilization is cost effective.
  6. Seedling care.
    • This may be the most important factor in success or failure of a new pine plantation.
    • Improper handling and transportation of seedlings can cause poor survival even if everything else is done correctly.
  7. Planting.
    • This can be done either by machine or by hand.
    • The topography will be the greatest determining factor for this.
  8. Choice of contractor.
    • A tree planting contractor must be experienced and provide references.
    • We commonly prefer using the same contractor to do the site prep and planting. That way, two different contractors cannot point fingers at each other if there is a problem with tree survival.
  9. Maintain quality control.
    • Supervising the planting operation and conducting a survival check after the first growing season will help to ensure that the contractor does a good job
  10. What does it cost?
    • Site prep and planting is not cheap. However, the cost is usually offset by the better rate of return earned on a well-managed forest.
    • It is best to set aside a portion of the proceeds of the timber sale for reforestation.
    • If the profit is plowed back into the forest, there will be an increased land value and return on investment.
    • There are cost-share programs available to help offset the initial cost associated with site prep and planting. State forestry agencies, university extension foresters, and the Forest Landowners Association are good sources of current reforestation costs.

Longleaf Pine Seedling