Thursday, February 25, 2016

Name That Site Type*

I was out in the woods in White County this week with Joe Newcomb, a consultant who retired from the Forest Service 25 years ago.  He has been doing real forestry work ever since, and has to turn away most requests because there are only so many hours in the day.  He handled a sale in this timber more than 20 years ago and is now setting up a final harvest, plus prescribing the regeneration plans for the owners.  This is a very productive site with cherrybark oak, Shumard oak , white oak and black cherry.  In most of  my counties black cherry won't grow this nice.  This tree is 22" dbh (diameter 4' 6" above the ground) with a couple of good logs.  Mature cherries in my other counties will be 16" to 18" and will have sap dripping from many places on the log.  I asked Joe if this was on Hosmer soil and he pulled out a copy of the plan he had written. He confirmed that we were indeed on Hosmer soil.  That was a bit of luck on my part, but it was also from experience.

Many years ago I went to a forest soils conference hosted by Purdue, and run mostly by Professor George Parker.  George pioneered categorizing forest site types based on soil type, aspect and slope position.  I took in what George was saying and started applying his ideas in my part of Illinois by paying attention to soil maps and how well various tree species grew on different soils and site situations.  The difficult challenge for foresters on productive sites like this one is not growing trees, but making the species you want reproduce on them.  Fire and herbicides applied in the right combinations are important tools, and it takes a systematic approach to accomplish what you want.  Joe just turned 80 recently and he is prescribing management treatments to this forest so in 80 years there will be another harvest equal to the one he is arranging now.

*We are nearly at the foot of a southeast facing slope on Hosmer soil, just above a bottomland soil where the forest changes to a pin oak stand. This forest has been invaded by bush honeysuckle and there will be herbicide treatments to knock that pest down, plus burning to encourage oak regeneration.  You are a good man, Joe!

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