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Stand Improvement

Timber Stand Improvement

When managing an Indiana woodland, a forester’s most powerful tool is a properly done timber harvest. However, there are many times when all the management needs of a woodland cannot be met by a harvest. When trees other tan harvest trees need to be eliminated to improve the productivity of a woodland, a forester uses a practice known as timber stand improvement (TSI). TSI is a catchall term that can include crop tree release, thinning, cull tree removal, completing harvest openings, as well as grapevixie cutting. The objective of TSI is to improve the growth rate of selected crop trees. The result is more timber production from woodland’s higher quality and higher value frees and a shorter period of time between harvests.

CROP TREE RELEASE TSI is most beneficial when working with small pole-sized timber, or shortly after a harvest has occurred. When working with small pole-sized timber, trees 5” – 10” diameter at breast height (DBH), crop tree release and thinning are the most common objectives. Crop tree release refers to releasing a crop tree from the excessive light competition of a less desirable free. An example would be killing an 8” DBH honey locust to ensure the survival and to increase the growth of a nearby 5” DBH red oak that was partially overtopped by the honey locust. Thinning is similar to crop tree release, but usually involves trees of the same species and approximate size. Thinning is often needed in tree plantations as well as in natural stands.

GRAPE VINES The cutting of grapevines can be very important in a stand of timber. Grapevines can engulf the top of desirable frees resulting in severe light competition and because they hang from the tree can break or bend it. Controlling a grapevine problem in the years before a timber harvest can greatly reduce the chance of a more serious vine problem after a harvest.

CULL AND WOLF TREES Cull and wolf frees are two other classes of frees often eliminated in TSI. These are larger trees of little or no value that are occupying space in a woodland that could be better utilized by more productive higher value trees. The classic example of a cull free is a large old hollow beech tree. A wolf tree often has one short, low value log but has a very wide spreading crown and simply occupies more space than its value would justify. In some instances, depending on a landowner’s objectives, a cull or wolf tree is left in a woodland as a wildlife den free or food source, or for aesthetic or sentimental reasons.

AFTER A HARVEST When TSI is done in a woodland that has recently been harvested, some additional objectives are considered. These include the killing of harvest-created openings. The completing of harvest openings involves the killing of undesirable trees that are competing with desirable regeneration for this newly introduced sunlight. This practice can have profound effect on the future species composition and value of woodland. Trees killed for this purpose often include ironwood, hickory, sassafras, elm, dogwood, and trees standing by themselves that may develop into wolf trees. When performing TSr, we kill only trees adversely competing with crop trees for sunlight. This means that there are many understory and noncommercial trees left in the woodland after TSI whose elimination would not be cost effective.

METHOD There are a variety of ways to eliminate trees when doing TSL The most common way is to kill them with herbicides. The herbicide is introduced into the tree by girdling the tree with a hatchet, or chainsaw, and then applying the herbicide into the cut. This method reduces sprouting and damage to surrounding trees that could result if the trees were felled. When killing smaller frees and damage to surrounding trees is not an issue we oflen just cut the trees down and treat the stump with herbicide. Another means of accomplishing ISI is to cut and use these frees as firewood. From time to time cost share money to help pay the cost of TSI can be obtained from your county’s ASCS office. Even without cost share assistance TSI can be vexy cost effective and an excellent long-term investment in your woodland.

TREE SELECTION Selecting trees to be eliminated in TSI can be very complicated, usually involving the interaction of many factors, and in most cases requires the expertise of a practicing forester. In Indiana, there are a number of private consulting foresters who, for a fee, can assist a landowner with all forms of woodland management, including timber marking and marketing, woodland management plans, inventories, appraisals, tree planting, and timber stand improvement.

A woodland can be a very valuable and productive part of an Indiana farm, but instead it is often overlooked and neglected. Unlike corn and beans, quality timber is a scarce commodity, which is much in demand and whose market value increases Lister than the rate of inflation. For economical, environmental, aesthetic and recreational reasons our woodlands justify good management. TSI is one form of timber management that when appropriate, can double the productivity of a woodland and, in some cases provide firewood as well. If you have not already done so, I would recommend you get in touch with a consultant or state forester to inspect your woodland and determine what management is needed in your woodland. Perhaps TSI may be a part of your management plan.