TREE FARMERS LEARNING TO IMPROVE ON NATURE

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Sun Mar 19 02:02:01 EST 2000


The following article is from The Oregonian, March 16, 2000, p Metro
South 1

TREE FARMERS LEARNING TO IMPROVE ON NATURE

Timberland owners are assuring future supplies of wood even as logging
on public land diminishes

By JIM KADERA, The Oregonian

	In the first 100 years of logging in Western Oregon, cutover land
regrew trees instead of brush or grass only if Mother Nature got it
right.
	Improving on the whims of nature wasn't easy. Starting in the mid-
1900s, it took years of experimentation to develop reforestation science
and techniques.
	One Longview Fibre contract crew of 13 now can plant 1,000 or more
seedlings a day, carefully placing them in the ground to their roots are
straight and free to grow.
	But improvement sin the quality of reforestation by most Northwest
tree farmers are as important to future timber supplies as the quantity
of trees planted. With logging prohibited on most federal forestland,
the need for corporate and small woodland tree farmers to manage their
property smartly has increased.
	Dave Bowden, senior vice president for timber at Longview Fibre,
remembers a reforestation failure in his first year with the comapany in
1960.
	"We planted a 500-acre old burn near Willamina with seedlings from a
Salem nursery," Bowden said. "The trees were only 5 inches high with 4-
inch roots. We had 90 percent mortality within a year. Drought killed
them the first summer."
	Instead of planting seedlings, Longview Fibre and other corporate
tree farmers often relied on helicopters to drop millions of seeds,
mostly Douglas fir, on cutover land in the 1950s and '60s.
	"We got some good seedling results," Bowden recalled, "but not where
it was too hot and dry in the summer. Or you might get too many trees,
as many as 10,000 an acre, if all the seeds grew.
	"Back then, there were no herbicides selective to controlling grass.
You need to do that on dry sites where competition for moisture is
severe."
	Willamette Industries, which owns a tree farm south of Molalla, had
its share of trial and error. One of the worst mistakes was an aerial
seeing onto crusty snow in Polk County. When the Port Orford cedar seeds
hit the snow, they rolled into a creek at the bottom of a valley.
	In the late 1940s and early '50s, Willamette tested seeding with a
gun that shot seeds into the ground. A hand-cranked seeder was tested on
other plots. The company concluded that hand-planting seedlings was the
only reliable way to get the right amount of trees to grow on each acre.
	"As we learned, we got seedling survival to 75 (percent) to 80
percent," said Jim James, general manager of Willamette's Western timber
and logging. "Now with better nursery stock and planting techniques,
survival is in the high 90s."
	Mark Tribwasser has seen significant improvements in the quality of
seedlings produced at the Weyerhaeuser Co. nursery he manages near
Aurora.

Transplanting spurs growth
	Until the late 1980s, the nursery grew seedlings for two years in
outdoor seedbeds. But the roots were too puny to withstand the usual
summer drought on some sites. The survival rate of seedlings after
planting on logged lands was only 60 percent to 70 percent, Triebwasser
said.
	Looking for better performers, Weyerhaeuser switched to a system
common to reforestation nurseries today. Seedlings spend their first
year in containers inside greenhouses, then are transplanted in year two
to a nursery field. The transplanting spurs additional growth.
	"That's our company standard, but we're also working on developing
large plugs with fertilizer included," Tribwasser said. He referred to
seedlings gown entirely in greenhouses for only eight to 12 months.
	Called megaplugs by foresters, the extra-large seedlings are more
expensive to produce, ship and plant on a tree farm. "Because they cost
more, they're not going to be fore everyone," he said.
	Mark McKelvie, a Willamette Industries forester, said the company is
testing whether the benefits of megaplugs outweigh the costs.

Megaplugs advocated
	Ed Hendrix, manager of Longview Fibre's Clackamas County tree farm,
is a big plug fan. "With megaplugs, I don't have to wait two years to
plant if one year I cut more timber than we planned," he said.
	Hendrix said Longview Fibre tries to avoiding losing even one year
in growing timber that takes 55 to 60 years.
	"You want to get things done right: to get trees planted and above
the brush so they can grow in the sunlight," he said.
	When it comes to Douglas fir, most tree farmers use seed from
orchards of selected naturally superior firs. Bowden said he would like
to see similar research and development of other species.
	"We want young trees that grow fast so we don't need to use as many
chemicals," he said.
	Fifth-three percent of seedlngs Longview plants are Douglas fir. The
rest are 23 percent hemlock, 12 percent red cedar, 11 percent ponderosa
pine, and 1 percent each noble fir and alder. The percentages total more
than 100 because of rounding.

Clients are protected
	With less land in hemlock country near the coast, Willamette this
season is planting 67 percent Douglas fir, 19 percent hemlock, 4 percent
noble fir plus smaller amounts of cedar, grand fir, spruce and ponderosa
pine.
	Ken Everett, and Oregon City-based forestry consultant, said he
contracts for 200,000 seedlings a year from a nursery to assure his
small woodland clients get the best trees.
	Higher log prices since federal forest logging collapsed have
encouraged many woodland owners to spend more on growing wood, he said.
	After all the reforestation improvements, John Foster, an Estacada
tree farmer, said he still is looking for an economical, effective way
to keep deer from munching on seedlings. A strong-smelling repellent and
plastic tubes haven't done the trick.

COMMENT BY POSTER: Even after 100 years of forestry (or is that
logging?) "foresters" still don't seem to have the basics for growing
trees down. Pretty much every one knows the big four: air, water, soil
and light. But the fifth requirement, mycorrhizal fungi, are largely
unknown. Even plant specialists often have difficulty with this because
until very recently, mycology was lumped with botany.

What do mycorrhizal fungi do for trees? They

1) Gather water, acting as a gigantic extension of the tree's root
system. A single square centimeter of soil may contain over 1 kilometer
of mycelial strands; a square inch over 2 miles.

2) Bind soils together. One of the fastest ways to decrease soil erosion
on steep slopes is to inoculate seedling trees as they are planted.
Inoculation cost compared to seedlings costs are nearly negligible.

3) Form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. N is a
limiting factor of tree growth.

4) Leach potassium and phosphorus from rock. Both are limiting factors
of tree growth rates.

5) Form mat-communities with other plants and trees, tied together by
fungi. Studies at a British Columbia nursery showed that fungi shared
nutrients between seedlings, specifically Western hemlock and birch. And
several US studies show that when Red alder and Douglas fir are
interplanted, both species are healthier.

6) Decrease fatalities from transplantation shock. As indicated in the
article, seedling fatalities are large. An inoculation of 50,000
seedlings two years ago yielded two fatalities from a visual inspection
of the site. Both fatalities were next to each other, and had tire
tracks on both sides of the trees. A study by Dr. James Trappe and
several of his graduate students at OSU indicated that 100% of
terrestrial-rooted Western hemlock were associated with mycorrhizal
fungi at naturally regenerating sites. As Trappe drolly noted, 100% of
_anything_ seldom happens in nature.

7) Increases biodiversity. Trees inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi are
better able to withstand environmental and naturally-occuring stress
sources, such as drought (wonder why), fire, competition, etc. The
majority of non-animate life in any given site are likely fungal. For
example, over 3,000 forms of fungi form mycorrhizae with Douglas fir!
Several hundred of these species or "species specific": they associate
with no other trees or shrubs.

8) Increased growth. If you've read to this point, you already know why.
If you haven't, but read it again.

9) Produce valuable crops of fungi for gourmet food outlets. Mycorrhizal
fungi include true and false truffles, matsutake, chanterelles,
hedgehogs, Boletes, and Laccaria to name a few. Some of these have
medicinal qualities. Several may have more economic value each year than
their host trees for lumber.

So why aren't more timber companies use mycorrhizal fungi? Is it
possible they just don't know about them? Or are they just ignored? And
what about private timber owners?

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
www.oregonwhitetruffles.com


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