Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Should I thin every 3rd Row or 5th Row?

I was talking to a colleague the other day about a stand of trees that where recently thinned for the second time. The stand of trees is split by a road and each side is owned by a different owner. The entire tract was originally owned by a paper company and planted at the same time! The differences are huge. One side of the road was thinned by removing every third road, the other removing every fifth row. The trees in the stand where every fifth row was removed are much larger!!

Every 5th Row Removed

Let’s talk some forestry ecology. Each site has a finite carrying capacity, that is each site will grow only a certain number of cubit feet (or tons) per year. That can only be changed by practices like tillage, fertilization, genetics etc. As the forest practitioner, you get to decide how the volume growth is applied to the stand. Where there are lots of trees, only small incremental amounts are added to each tree, conversely where there are fewer trees, you will add larger amounts of volume to each tree. Trees will naturally thin themselves if you provide no intervention, that is a bad thing. The practitioner should decide which trees stay to grow and which trees are removed from the stand.

Every 3rd Row Removed

Now the question…do I remove every third row or fifth row. The answer….remove every fifth row. In a third row thinning, you are removing 1/3 of the good trees, in a fifth row thinning you are only removing 1/5 of the good trees. The result is the 3rd row thinning removes 13.33% more of the good trees that should be left as crop tress. Removing a row is acceptable as the harvesting equipment needs room to access the stand and thin the trees. See my blog post about harvesting equipment…

Assuming the trees are planted in 10 foot rows, after removing the row, the harvesting equipment now has a 20 foot corridor to fell and skid the trees through the stand to the loading deck. In my judgment, the stand where every fifth row was remove is likely to put an additional $500 - $700 per acre in the landowners pocket. Sounds like a no-brainer to me!!

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