By William R. Chaney, Herbert Leeson Edlin, Phillip E. Pope



The ancient world
It is believed that Homo erectus used wood for fire at least 750,000 years ago. The oldest evidence of the use of wood for construction, found at the Kalambo Falls site in Tanzania, dates from some 60,000 years ago. Early organized communities were located along waterways that flowed through the arid regions of India, Pakistan, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, where scattered trees along riverbanks were used much as they are today—for fuel, construction, and handles for tools. Writers of the Hebrew Bible make frequent reference to the use of wood. Pictures in Egyptian tombs show the use of the wooden plow and other wooden tools to prepare the land for sowing. Carpenters and shipwrights fabricated wooden boats as early as 2700 bce. Theophrastus, Varro, Pliny, Cato, and Virgil wrote extensively on the subject of trees, their classification, manner of growth, and the environmental characteristics that affect them.
The Romans took a keen interest in trees and imported tree seedlings throughout the Mediterranean region and Germany, establishing groves comparable to those in Carthage, Lebanon, and elsewhere. The fall of the Roman Empire signaled an end to conservation works throughout the Mediterranean and a renewal of unregulated cutting, fire, and grazing of sheep and goats, which resulted in the destruction of the forests. This, in turn, caused serious soil loss, silting of streams and harbours, and the conversion of forest to a scrubby brush cover known as maquis.
Modern developments
Formal education in forestry began about 1825 when private forestry schools were established. These were the outgrowth of the old master schools such as Cotta Master School, which developed into the forestry college at Tharandt—one of the leading forestry schools in Germany. The National School of Forestry was established in Nancy, France, in 1825.
During the 19th century the reputation of German foresters stood so high that they were employed in most continental European countries. Early American foresters, including the great conservation pioneer Gifford Pinchot, gained their training at European centres. But the doctrine of responsible control had to fight a hard battle against timber merchants who sought quick profits.
The 20th century has seen the steady growth of national forest laws and policies designed to protect woodlands as enduring assets. Beginning in the 1940s vast land reclamation was undertaken by Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, and the Maghrib countries of North Africa to restore forests to the slopes laid bare by past abuse. The main objective of the tree planting is to save what remains of the soil and to protect the watersheds. In China, where forests once extended over 30 percent of the land, centuries of overcutting, overgrazing, and fires reduced this proportion to approximately 7 percent. China has taken major steps to improve land use, including construction of reservoirs and a huge forest planting program, which reported the planting of 15.8 million hectares (38.9 million acres) between 1950 and 1957 alone.
The character of forest policies around the world reflects national political philosophies. In communist countries all forests are owned by the state. In the United States both the federal and the state governments have deemed it prudent to hold substantial areas of natural forest, while allowing commercial companies and private individuals to own other areas outright. Similar patterns of ownership are found throughout most of Asia, western Europe, and the Commonwealth countries. In Japan the extensive forests are largely state owned. Tribal ownership is found in many African countries and proves a serious obstacle to effective modern management.
International cooperation is effected by the Forestry Department of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, with headquarters in Rome.
Development of U.S. policies
The history of forestry in the United States followed the same path as forestry in Europe—land clearing, repeated burning, overcutting, and overgrazing—until a bill was passed by Congress in 1891 authorizing the president to set apart from the public domain reserves of forested land. In 1905 an act of Congress, with strong encouragement from President Theodore Roosevelt, transferred the Bureau of Forestry from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. Gifford Pinchot, who had been chief of the bureau, was made chief of the newly named Forest Service. Pinchot developed the U.S. Forest Service into a federal agency that today is recognized worldwide for its research, education, and land and forest management expertise. On the state level the Morrill Act of 1862 provided for federal–state cooperative programs in which the federal government granted first land, then money, to the states for the establishment of technical agricultural colleges. The Weeks Act of 1911 authorized the federal government to assist the states in protecting forests from fire, and the Clark-McNary Act of 1924 extended the provisions of the Weeks Act to include cooperation in forest extension, planting, and assistance to forest owners. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the interests of forestry were served most imaginatively and thoroughly by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which planted trees, fought forest fires, and improved access to woodlands across the United States. The CCC, rooted in the system of public works initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, continued until 1942, acquainting many people with forestry as a major government activity.
The complete mobilization of resources for the U.S. involvement in World Wars I and II and the pent-up demand for consumer goods made heavy demands on forest resources and industries. As a result, forestry on a national basis entered a period of the most rapid advance since the turn of the century. This time the advance was stimulated by the need for forest products and by the conviction on the part of the major timber companies that they must protect their raw material supply. To protect the forests from growing pressure from single-interest groups, Congress passed the Multiple Use–Sustained Yield Act of 1960. This act directed that the national forests be managed under principles of multiple use so as to produce a sustained yield of products and services. The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation was established shortly thereafter in the Department of the Interior. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, established in 1964, launched a comprehensive program for planning and developing outdoor recreation facilities. State forestry programs had their beginnings in the United States during colonial times, but it was the Weeks and Clark–McNary laws that provided the impetus to develop recognized state forestry departments. The Smith–Lever Act of 1914 allotted funds through the state agricultural colleges for extension work in forestry. Initial programs emphasized tree planting and demonstrations, but today all aspects of forestry and natural and related resources are included.
Industrial forestry began around 1912 when Finch, Pruyn, and Company started a forestry program on its Adirondack holding in New York. Trees to be cut were marked by foresters, and the cutting budget was projected on a sustained-yield basis. A rapid expansion of company forestry programs in the northeastern United States began in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Following World War II, paper companies expanded rapidly throughout the South and West and to a lesser extent in the Northeast. Pulp and paper companies were quick to recognize the benefits to be realized from research financed by the Forest Service and by universities in such fields as tree physiology, entomology, genetics, and tree improvement. A few companies established their own experimental forests and research teams.
The cause of forestry in the United States also has been advanced by citizens’ organizations. These vary from lay and youth organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and garden clubs, to the nation’s most prestigious scientific societies. The American Association for the Advancement of Science stimulated Congress in 1876 to embark on a sustained federal forestry program. The National Academy of Sciences 1896 report on forest reserves began its long involvement in forest conservation. The Society of American Foresters, founded in 1900, together with its sister societies in Canada and Mexico, represents the profession of forestry in North America.
Classification and distribution of forests
Botanical classification places forest trees into two main groups, Gymnospermae and Angiospermae. The gymnosperms consist exclusively of trees and woody shrubs, whereas the angiosperms are a diverse group of plants that include trees and shrubs as well as grasses and herbaceous plants. The gymnosperms probably gave rise to the angiosperms, although the manner in which this took place is disputed.
The gymnosperms are of very ancient lineage and include the earliest trees on the evolutionary scale. With certain exceptions, the seeds of gymnosperms are borne in cones, where they develop naked or exposed on the upper surface of the cone scales. The wood of these trees has a simple structure. Many species are extinct, such as the tree ferns of the Carboniferous Period (280,000,000 to 345,000,000 years ago), and are known only as fossils. The ginkgo, or maidenhair tree, is the sole survivor of an entire order of gymnosperms, the Ginkgoales. Among the gymnosperms, the most important and numerous forest trees are the conifers, also known as softwoods. This group includes the well-known pines, spruces, firs, cedars, junipers, hemlocks, and sequoias. These species are so dominant in the gymnosperm class that forests of gymnosperm trees are typically called coniferous forests. Except for the ginkgo, larches, and bald cypress, all gymnosperms are evergreen.
The angiosperms constitute the dominant plant life of the present geologic era. They are the products of a long line of evolutionary development that has culminated in the highly specialized organ of reproduction known as the flower, in which seed development occurs within an ovary. This group includes a large variety of broad-leaved trees, most with a deciduous leaf habit but some that are evergreen. The angiosperms are further divided into monocots and dicots. Trees are represented in both groups.
The monocots include principally the palms and bamboos. Palm trees form extensive savannas in certain tropical and subtropical zones but are more usually seen along watersides or in plantations.
Palm trees have no growth rings, being made up of spirally arranged bundles of fibres, giving a light, spongy wood. Palms are valuable, however, for their various fruits (coconuts, dates, and palm kernels) and leaf products (carnauba wax, raffia, and thatching and walling materials for houses in the tropics).
Another form of tropical monocotyledonous forest is the bamboo thicket, common in Asia, composed of giant woody grasses. One of the most versatile plants in the world, bamboo is valuable as a construction material, as well as for hundreds of other applications. Its young shoots are eaten as vegetables and are a valuable source of certain enzymes.
Finally, a more highly evolved group of forest trees is the dicots, or broad-leaved trees, also called hardwoods. Their wood structure is complex, and each sort of broad-leaved lumber has characteristic properties that fit it for particular uses.
Occurrence and distribution
Approximately 4,000,000,000 hectares, or about one-third of the total land area in the world, is covered with closed forests of broad-leaved and coniferous species and open forests or savannas (Table 1). Because of the varying characteristics of individual tree species, the kind and distribution of the world’s forests are largely determined by local conditions. Each combination of temperature, rainfall, and soil has a peculiar association of trees and other vegetation that are best equipped to compete with other plants for that site. The open forest is characteristically a tropical grassland, often disturbed by fire, with forest along streams and scattered individual trees or small groves. Closed thorn forests usually appear adjacent to the savannas. In general, coniferous forests are found in the cooler, drier areas, and the broad-leaved species are predominant in the warmer, usually moister parts of the world. Tropical forests consist almost exclusively of broad-leaved species. Mixed broad-leaved and coniferous forests are found near the boundaries between these two climatic zones.
Coniferous forests are largely found in the temperate climate of the Northern Hemisphere, where they cover approximately 1,100,000,000 hectares; some 85 percent of them are in North America and the erstwhile Soviet Union. The northern coniferous forest, or taiga, extends across North America from the Pacific to the Atlantic, across northern Europe through Scandinavia and Russia, and across Asia through Siberia to Mongolia, northern China, and northern Japan. It has outliers along all the temperate mountain ranges, including the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Alps, the Urals, and the Himalayas. Its principal trees are spruces (of the genus Picea), northern pines (Pinus), silver firs (Abies), Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga), hemlocks (Tsuga), and larches (Larix). Together these northern softwood forests form a world resource of tremendous importance, yielding the bulk of the lumber and pulpwood handled commercially. Northern conifers from many lands are extensively planted in Europe, including the British Isles.
The southern coniferous forest has a discontinuous spread through the southern part of the Northern Hemisphere, including California, the southeastern states of the United States, the Mediterranean lands of southern Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor, parts of the Asian mainland, and southern Japan. Pines are the principal trees, along with cypresses (Cupressus and Chamaecyparis), cedars (Cedrus), and redwoods and mammoth trees (Sequoia and Sequoiadendron). Certain southern pines such as the California Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) grow poorly in their native habitat but exceptionally fast when planted in subtropical Europe, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.
In addition to the plantations of introduced pines, small areas of coniferous forest are found in the Southern Hemisphere, notably the Chile pine, Araucaria araucana, in the Andes; hoop pine, or bunyabunya, Araucaria bidwillii, in Australia; and kauri pine, Agathis australis, in New Zealand.
The dicotyledonous broad-leaved species form three characteristic types of forests: temperate deciduous, subtropical evergreen, and tropical evergreen.
Temperate deciduous broad-leaved forests are made up of the summer-green trees of North America, northern Europe, and the temperate regions of Asia and South America. Characteristic trees are oaks (Quercus species), beeches (Fagus and Nothofagus), ash trees (Fraxinus), birches (Betula), elms (Ulmus), alders (Alnus), and sweet chestnuts (Castanea). Temperate broad-leaved trees expand their foliage in spring, grow rapidly in summer, and shed all their leaves each fall.
Subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forests grow largely in countries with a Mediterranean type of climate—i.e., hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters. Their trees have characteristic thick, hard-surfaced, leathery-textured leaves with waxy coatings that enable them to resist water loss during summer droughts. Their evergreen habit enables them to make use of moist winters. Typical trees are the evergreen oaks, species of Quercus, and the madrone, or Arbutus, while in Australia most evergreen broadleaf trees are species of Eucalyptus. Few evergreen broadleaf trees have high timber value, and many are little more than scrub, highly inflammable during hot, dry summers. Their world distribution embraces California; the southeastern states of the United States; Mexico; parts of Chile and Argentina; the Mediterranean shores of Europe, Asia, and North Africa; South Africa; and most of Australia.
Tropical evergreen broad-leaved forests, or tropical rain forests, grow in the hot, humid belt of high rainfall that follows the Equator around the globe. They occur in West and Central Africa, South Asia, the northern zone of Australia, and in Central and South America. Where they extend into regions of seasonal rainfall, such as monsoon zones, they become less truly evergreen, holding many trees that stand leafless during the short dry seasons. Tropical rain forests hold a great variety of tree species. A few of the timbers, such as teak, Tectona grandis, in India, and mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla, in Central America, have uniquely useful properties or ornamental appearance and hence a high commercial value. Balsa, Ochroma pyramidale, from Central America, is the lightest timber known; it is used for rafts, aircraft construction, and insulation against noise, heat, and cold.
Trees outside areas classified as forestland, such as those in windbreaks, along rights-of-way, or around farm fields, are also important resources, especially in densely populated areas. For example, some 20 percent of Rwanda’s farmland is maintained by farmers as woodlots and wooded pastures. These roughly 200,000 hectares of dispersed trees exceed the combined area of the country’s natural forests and state and communal plantations. In the Kakamega District of Kenya more than 90 percent of the farms have scattered trees maintained for animal fodder and fuelwood. Of the 7,200,000,000 trees planted in the densely settled plains region of China, 5,800,000,000 have been planted around homes and in villages, with each household tending an average of 74 trees. Even in France, where trees are not used much for fuelwood, trees outside the forests occupy 883,000 hectares. There are no good estimates of the worldwide totals of such scattered trees, but their existence provides many locally useful products and extends the resources in the forested areas.

Purposes and techniques of forest management

Multiple-use concept
The forests of the world provide numerous amenities in addition to being a source of wood products. The various public, industrial, and private owners of forestland may have quite different objectives for the forest resources they control. Industrial and private owners may be most interested in producing a harvestable product for a processing mill. However, they also may want other benefits, such as forage for grazing animals, watershed protection, recreational use, and wildlife habitat. On public lands the multiple-use land management concept has become the guiding principle for enlightened foresters. This is a complex ecological and sociological concept in contrast to the single-use principle of the past. The challenge, in the words of Gifford Pinchot, is to “ensure the greatest good for the most people over the long run.” Thus timber production may have top priority in some areas, but in others, such as those near large population centres, recreational values may have high priority. Multiple use calls for exceptional skill on the part of forest managers.
Sustained yield
Forest management originated in the desire of the large central European landowners to secure dependable income to maintain their castles and retinues of servants. Today forest management is still primarily economic in essence, because modern forest industries, mainly sawmilling and paper manufacture, can be efficient only on a continuous-operation basis.
Foresters think in long time scales, in line with the long life of their renewable crop. However, it is possible that a forest can be managed in such a way that a modest timber crop may be harvested indefinitely year after year if annual harvest and the losses due to fire, insects, diseases, and other destructive agents are counterbalanced by annual growth. This is the sustained-yield concept. An important element is the rotation, or age to which each crop can be grown before it is succeeded by the next one. Examples of short rotation periods in the subtropics are seven years for leucaena for fuelwood, 10 years for eucalyptus, and 20 years for pine for pulpwood. Here a sustained yield could in theory be obtained simply by felling one-tenth of the eucalyptus forest each year and replanting it. Rotation periods for pulpwood in northern Europe and North America extend to 50 years. Softwood sawlogs often need 100 years to reach an economic size, while rotation periods for broad-leaved trees, such as oak and beech, in central Europe, may extend to two centuries. Over so long a growing spell only part of the lumber yield is obtained by the clear-cutting of a small fraction of the forest each year. The rest is secured by systematically thinning out the whole forest periodically.
Sustained-yield principles are likewise applied to minor forest produce. Turpentine and pitch, also known as naval stores, are obtained by the systematic tapping of the lower trunk of certain subtropical pines. Successive cuts with a chisellike tool every few days during a succession of summers eventually kill the trees. To ensure continued yields, crops of young pines are raised rotationally to replace those felled. A similar system is followed for Para rubber, Hevea brasiliensis, grown in plantations.
Forest products
The culture of trees in natural forests and plantations for the yield of lumber, pulp, chips, and specialty products is a principal management objective. In many parts of the world the harvest of wood for firewood and charcoal is the dominant use, and these products are often in short supply. Timber stands must be felled and regenerated in an orderly sequence to meet continuing industrial demands.
Silviculture is the branch of forestry concerned with the theory and practice of controlling forest establishment, composition, and growth. Like forestry itself, silviculture is an applied science that rests ultimately upon the more fundamental natural and social sciences. The immediate foundation of silviculture in the natural sciences is the field of silvics, which deals with the laws underlying the growth and development of single trees and of the forest as a biologic unit. Growth, in turn, depends on local soils and climate, competition from other vegetation, and interrelations with animals, insects, and other organisms, both beneficial and destructive. The efficient practice of silviculture demands knowledge of such fields as ecology, plant physiology, entomology, and soil science and is concerned with the economic as well as the biologic aspects of forestry. The implicit objective of forestry is to make the forest useful to man.
The practice of silviculture is divided into three areas: methods of reproduction, intermediate cuttings, and protection. In every forest the time comes when it is desirable to harvest a portion of the timber and to replace the trees removed with others of a new generation. The act of replacing old trees, either naturally or artificially, is called regeneration or reproduction, and these two terms also refer to the new growth that develops. The period of regeneration begins when preparatory measures are initiated and does not end until young trees have become established in acceptable numbers and are fully adjusted to the new environment. The rotation is the period during which a single crop or generation is allowed to grow.
Intermediate cuttings are various types of cuttings made during the development of the forest—i.e., from the reproduction stage to maturity. These cuttings or thinnings are made to improve the existing stand of trees, to regulate growth, and to provide early financial returns, without any effort directed at regeneration. Intermediate cuttings are aimed primarily at controlling growth through adjustments in stand density, the regulation of species composition, and selection of individuals that will make up the harvest trees. Protection of the stand against fire, insects, fungi, animals, and atmospheric disturbances is as much a part of silviculture as is harvesting, regenerating, and tending the forest crop.
Silvicultural systems are divided into those employing natural regeneration, whereby tree crops are renewed by natural seeding or occasionally sprout regrowth, and those involving artificial regeneration, whereby trees are raised from seed or cuttings. Natural regeneration is easier but may be slow and irregular; it can only renew existing forests with the same sorts of tree that grew before. Artificial regeneration needs more effort, yet can prove quicker, more even, and in the long run more economical. It permits the introduction of new sorts of trees or better strains of the preexisting ones.
Natural regeneration
In established forests the selective cutting of marketable timber, taking either one tree at a time (single-tree selection) or a number of trees in a cluster (group selection) and leaving gaps in which replacements can grow up from natural seedlings, can prove economical and also ensure the best possible use of available soil, light, and growing space. The best examples of single-tree-selection forests are found in Switzerland, on slopes where any clear felling could lead quickly to soil erosion and avalanches.
Alternative methods of natural regeneration deal with areas of land as units, rather than with single trees. One highly effective example is employed in the Douglas fir forests along the Pacific slope of Canada and the western United States. Logging by powerful yarding machines, using overhead cables, creates wedge-shaped gaps of cleared ground. The surrounding forest is left standing for many years in order to provide shelter and seed. Abundant seed is carried by wind on to the cleared land and gives rise, in a few years, to a full crop of seedling firs. After these have reached seed-bearing age, the areas previously left standing may be removed in their turn. Similar systems using a pattern of strips cut across the forest, or circular plots gradually extended until they meet and coalesce, are employed in France and Germany.
A silvicultural system employing practices of short rotation (five to 10 years) and intensive culture (fertilization, weed, and insect and disease control) with superior genotypes relies on coppice, or regeneration from sprouts arising from stumps of felled trees, as the method of regeneration of the new crop and is characterized by high productivity.
Artificial regeneration
Artificial regeneration is accomplished by the planting of seedlings (the most common method) or by the direct planting of seeds. Direct seeding is reserved for remote or inaccessible areas where seedling planting is not cost-effective. A few tree species, such as poplars (Populus species) and willows (Salix species), are artificially reproduced from cuttings. Most forest planting in North America involves the conifers, especially the pines, spruces, and Douglas fir, because of the prospects of successful establishment and high financial yield. The amount of hardwood planted worldwide has increased from earlier periods, with major gains in tropical hardwoods (Eucalyptus species, Gmelina species) and high value temperate species.
Artificial regeneration offers greater opportunity than natural regeneration to modify the genetic constitution of stands. The most important decision made in artificial regeneration is the selection of the species used in each new stand. The species chosen should be adapted to the site. The most successful introductions are obtained by moving species to the same latitude and position on the continent that they occupied in their native habitat. For example, many conifers of the western coasts of North America have been successful at the same latitudes in western Europe. The forest economy of many countries in the Southern Hemisphere is dependent on pines introduced from localities of comparable climate in the southern United States, California, and Mexico.
The variability of seed quantity and quality and the demand for superior genotypes has led to the creation of seed orchards, stands of trees selected for superior genetic characteristics, which are cultivated to produce large quantities of seed. Most kinds of seed can be stored in sealed containers in refrigerators at temperatures near freezing for several years without a significant loss in viability. For some species, a brief period of cold storage may be necessary for the seeds to germinate; this stratification treatment is needed to satisfy the dormancy requirement of some temperate-zone species.
Direct sowing of harvested seed in the forest or on open land is not a common practice because of forest seed-eaters (mice, squirrels, birds) and the problem of weed growth. Tree seedlings are therefore raised in forest nurseries, where effective protection is possible. These seedlings almost invariably come from seed, although vegetative propagation from rooted cuttings is a useful technique of perpetuating valuable strains of certain species. Seedlings grown in raised seedbeds are removed from the nursery soil when large enough and are bare-rooted when planted in the field. Seedlings grown in individual containers have an intact root system encapsulated in a soil plug for planting. In either case, the system can be highly mechanized. To enhance seedling quality, the seedbeds or container media are inoculated with specific microorganisms that form symbiotic relationships with the seedlings. These microorganisms include certain fungi, which form mycorrhizae with the roots and improve nutrient and water uptake, and nitrogen-fixing organisms such as Rhizobium species and Frankia species, which contribute nutrients. Selective herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides are applied before or after seedling emergence to keep the developing seedlings free of weeds, insects, and disease.
Many tree seedlings are suitable for field planting after a few months in a containerized seedling nursery or after one to two years in a seedbed. Slow-growing species are transplanted by hand or machine during the dormant season to transplant beds where they are root-pruned and fertilized to stimulate top growth and the development of a bushy root system, characteristics essential for survival in field planting. The mechanized operation is highly efficient. One machine and four workers can transplant 30,000–40,000 seedlings each working day. Weeds are controlled during the transplant stage by chemical herbicides that inhibit weed seed germination or growth or by mechanical harrows drawn between the rows.
In preparation for field planting, dormant nursery-grown seedlings are undercut with a sharpened steel blade and removed from the bed by hand or by a mechanized vibrating lifter and conveyor belt system. Roots of seedlings lifted in autumn are packed with moistened sphagnum moss, and the bundles are stored in refrigerated coolers. Alternatively, seedlings may be placed in a trench, or heeling-in bed, and covered with soil and mulch until spring. At the time of lifting, seedlings should be culled to eliminate those that will not survive after planting—i.e., seedlings infested with insects or disease, badly damaged in lifting and handling, having distinctly poor root systems, or falling below minimum size standards. It is imperative that the seedlings be kept cool and the root systems moist in all phases of the lifting, storage, transport, and planting processes.
Container-grown seedlings are culled in a manner similar to the bare-rooted stock and in most cases are shipped in the containers in which they were produced. The container method, which has traditionally been used in the tropics or in locations that are hot and dry, has become the principal method of seedling production in Canada, Scandinavia, and portions of continental Europe, Japan, and China.
Planting tree seedlings is one of the most costly investments in the production of a forest crop. The success of a whole rotation is often determined by the soundness of decisions made about planting. These decisions concern the selection of the planting stock, the density of the planting, the use of mixed plantings, the season of planting, preparation of the site prior to planting, and even the method of planting. In temperate climates planting is generally conducted from late winter to late spring, but the use of container-grown seedlings extends the planting season into the early summer and includes a period in early autumn.
On level ground, machine planting is preferred over hand planting. A planting machine forms a groove in the soil in which seedlings are placed at specified intervals; a set of blades then cuts into the soil around the planted seedling, and a set of packing wheels firms the soil around it. A planting machine pulled behind a single tractor on prepared level ground can set 8,000–10,000 seedlings per day. On steep slopes, broken or rocky ground, or amid tree stumps and tops, planting is done by hand. The planter uses a spade, planting bar, or mattock (or a variation of one of these) to cut a notch, or dig a pit, into which the seedling roots are inserted. Soil is then replaced and stamped firmly around the base of the seedling.
During the following growing season, and possibly two to three years thereafter, weed control may be essential for the survival and early growth of the planted seedling. Weeds may be removed by hand with a sharp tool or hoe or by other mechanical means such as mowing or cultivating between the planted rows. Herbicides may offer a more effective and efficient means of weed control. While care must be exercised to shield the tree from many chemicals, compounds are available that kill unwanted vegetation but do not harm the tree seedling. In some regions the lower branches of conifers and certain highly valued hardwoods are pruned from saplings and young trees to improve the quality and value of the main stem and improve access into the plantation. Otherwise, the artificially established plantation needs, and receives, no more attention than does the naturally regenerated crop.
Until the 20th century foresters usually accepted the land much as they found it. Their reaction to infertile soil was to plant aggressive species of trees, regardless of their potential market value, and to accept lower returns in plant production. Development of modern machines and a growing understanding of plant nutrition and soil chemistry now enable foresters to improve sites much as a farmer does and thereby to increase output substantially. Mechanical draining, using tractor-drawn plows to create deep open drains and so aerate the soil, is now usual on the peaty swamps of Europe, especially in Finland. On the hard heathlands of Great Britain, 120,000 hectares of new afforestation land were broken up after 1940 with sturdy plows designed to turn over firmly compacted soil layers. Plowing facilitates penetration of air, water, and tree roots, checks weed growth, and lessens fire hazard. So far it has usually been confined to strips for each row of trees, but full plowing as done on a farm promises further advantages.
In the poorly drained Great Lakes states and in coastal areas in the southeastern and southern United States, sites are prepared by a bedding plow, which creates an alternative ridge and valley surface that improves soil drainage, aeration, and nutrient availability. Subsequent to bedding, seedlings are planted on the ridge or bed. Because forest crops are rarely irrigated (returns are too low for the capital cost invested), forest plantings on droughty sites require a careful selection of the species and the time for planting and an effective weed control program.
The fundamental relationship between mineral nutrition and growth is the same for trees as for other plants. An understanding of forest tree nutrition requires recognition of factors distinctive to forests: (1) The nutrient demands of the plantation vary from season to season and with the developmental stage of the stand. During the life of a forest tree crop, large quantities of nutrients are returned to the soil in organic matter, which is, in turn, mineralized and made available for reuse by the same or the following crop. (2) Retranslocation of absorbed nutrients is highly developed in trees; i.e., nutrients in leaves move back into stems prior to fall leaf drop and then move into new leaves in the spring. (3) Except for the first year after planting, trees start the growing season with a developed framework for photosynthesis and an established root system for nutrient and water uptake. (4) The use of soil resources such as water and nutrients by trees may often be strongly influenced by mechanisms involved in adaptations for survival from one season to another, rather than in growth.
Judicious management of nutrition ensures not only increased productivity of existing forests but also sustained productivity over many rotations. In southern Australia, for example, declines in yield of 25–30 percent in second rotation radiata pine (Pinus radiata) plantations have been corrected by a number of means, including intensive silviculture (site preparation, weed control, fertilization) during the early stages, retention and management of forest debris (leaves, branches, etc.) to conserve nutrients, and intercropping with annual legumes, which supply nitrogen and other nutrients.


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