The Timber Company

Blending Forestry and Logging

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Boundary Lines

Most landowners have a general idea as to where their land boundaries are located. However, there is a big difference in knowing the general location versus knowing the exact location. Probably my greatest challenge and most time consuming thing I do is to flag boundary lines. And guess what, if I’m wrong, you either don’t get all of your timber harvested or, worst case, we end up cutting some of your neighbor’s trees. And if I’m not 100% sure, I’m flagging a safe line so that I don’t cut some of the neighbor’s trees.

As a landowner, it is your responsibility to know where your lines are; this can only be done through a survey. And here is my main advice on surveying–request and pay the extra money for the surveyor to paint the lines. I know of only one or two surveyors who automatically paint their lines. Other surveyors only tie up flagging tape, which will fall off of the trees within 4-5 years. When that flagging tape falls off, you have lost the location of your line. 


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What are “Crop Trees”?

This is one of your best trees that you are counting on being worth something in the future. It is characterized by good form, quality, height, and diameter.
When thinning, you want a good stand of crop trees remaining. If, after a thinning, you have less crop trees remaining than poor trees, you were probably high graded. It is imperative that when you thin, the proper trees are targeted for harvest.
I have seen some tracts lately that are candidates for thinning—stocking levels are good; tree heights are excellent; diameters are big enough. However, in the case of a couple of  particular tracts, there are very few crop trees while there are a lot of trees that are very poor quality trees marked by poor form. Both of these tracts, incidentally, were naturally regenerated—not planted. When you thin a pine stand where there are very few good crop trees, in essence, you will be growing poor quality trees bigger—you will be growing pulpwood trees into bigger pulpwood trees.
When there are not sufficient crop trees, it is better to totally harvest the stand and then reforest with good quality loblolly pine seedlings. There is very little benefit of growing pulpwood trees into bigger pulpwood trees.
Note: When you elect to not reforest by planting good quality seedlings, you are at the mercy of the seed stock of surrounding trees and of any seed that came from your trees in the harvest area. Whatever they are, that is what you are going to get.

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Why should I thin my trees?

Did you know that the trees in your forest are competing for survival? “This struggle for existence…is so fierce that it reduces the growth and well-being of all the trees in the stand” that, truly, only the strongest survive; the weak have no chance for survival. The weak will die and rot where they fall; when the weak trees die, they create growth openings that allow the stronger trees to get even stronger. Why do the strong keep getting stronger? With the weak tree dead and lying on the ground, that is one less tree taking water, soil nutrients, and sunshine.

Thinning one time is the normal course of action for most landowners. But your trees will continue to compete for resources even after they have been thinned. That’s why, when possible and feasible, I recommend multiple thinnings on the same pine plantation.

This timber management style of multiple thinnings is a planned interval of thinnings, over a period of time, to keep your best trees healthy, vibrant, growing and producing at optimal rates, and increasing in value. You remove surplus trees that are suppressed and otherwise inferior in quality to the others, in order to concentrate the potential plant production on a limited number of trees (limiting growing resources to the best trees).

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Thinning Terms Defined

I often assume that everyone understands the terms that I use to describe the thinning process, and for that matter, other forestry terms. To that end, I will attempt to cover the specific terms used to describe and define the thinning process. Please feel free to post any questions.

Program of Thinning: “A Program of Thinning is a planned interval of thinnings, over a number of years, to keep your trees healthy, vibrant, growing at optimal rates, and increasing in value.”

1. Row Thinning is defined by which row is removed, ie. 5th row, 4th row, etc. For example: In a 4th row thinning, every 4th row of trees are removed which leaves 3 rows in-between.

2. Selection or Thinning:. Trees that are within the 3 rows are thinned or harvested by using the following criteria:

Is the tree suppressed?
Is the tree diseased?
Is the tree damaged?
Is the tree deformed?

3. Suppressed trees: These are trees that are growing in the understory, which is below the dominant and co-dominant trees. The suppressed trees are trees that are smaller and shorter and for whatever reason, could never keep up with the other trees. These trees will more than likely never grow into log size trees.

4. Disease trees: Fusiform Rust is the primary disease that affects pine trees. It eats into the tree making it eventually break at that point. By the way, oak trees are the carriers for Fusiform Rust. The goal is to not necessarily remove all of the diseased trees, but rather to remove the ones that may not live until the next thinning. You can have a dominant tree that is diseased and still growing. If the disease is not very deep into the tree, it usually pays to leave that tree until the next thinning. It will only gain in value.

5. Damaged Trees: Ice storms, hurricanes, etc. can cause damage to pine trees. The key is to determine if that tree will still grow and make you money. Again, the goal is to not necessarily remove all damaged trees.

6. Deformed trees: These are trees that have a lot of sweep (curvy), are forked, or have some other deformity. Deformities are usually related to genetics. However, one result from ice storms is forked trees. Again, the goal is to not necessarily remove all of the deformed trees, but rather those trees that will never become log quality. A forked tree, for example, will grow into logs. However, if the fork is not high enough on the tree where you can eventually get one 16 foot log off of the base of the tree, there is no need to leave that tree for the future. On the contrary, a tree that has a lot of sweep will never be log quality.

Once trees meeting the above criteria have been thinned out, then and only then should a good tree be considered for harvesting for spacing purposes. Good trees could more accurately be referred to as crop trees. These are your future money makers.

7.Basal Area (BA) is a measure of the growing space per acre that each tree occupies. It is the measure we use to determine the proper amount of trees to harvest and leave. The optimum goal is to thin to a BA of 80 square feet per acre.

8.Crown Closure: When the tree tops start touching each other, this event typically marks the slowing of the tree’s growth. This is due to each tree receiving less sunlight. When this event occurs, it is time to thin.​