Thursday, January 10, 2019

Tree Planters Are Troublemakers

At least that is how I was treated by many.  Farmers often don't like the idea that neighbors are planting trees.  Federal agency people did not necessarily like landowners getting assistance for eliminating farm ground by converting back to trees.  (Most were enthusiastic, but the troublemakers could cause trouble!) Prairie enthusiasts hated me!  Illinois is supposed to be the Prairie State, after all!  We persisted, though, and made a real difference.  Here is a post from ten years ago.  I would like to visit these fields again and see how these sites look today.

One year old bottomland hardwood planting project.

A similar project; ten years later.

The Conservation Reserve Program created a ton of work for the District Foresters in Illinois, and every one of us had to come up with strategies to use in our counties.  One of the keys to cranking out plans quickly was this list of species that is pretty well tailored to the soils and sites of my district.

Upland Sites:  black cherry, red-cedar, white pine, red pine, white oak, black oak, persimmon, tulip-poplar, dogwood, redbud, plum, elderberry, hawthorn, smooth/shining/staghorn sumac; plus all bottomland species.
Side Slopes:  Upland species; bottomland species; and if the slope is north or east facing, northern red oak, Shumard oak, and black walnut.
Riparian Zones:  Bottomland species; and black walnut, Shumard oak, cherrybark oak.
Bottomland Sites:  Pecan, hackberry, bur oak, shellbark hickory, baldcypress, sweetgum, pin oak, persimmon, river birch, sycamore, swamp white oak, nuttal oak, overcup oak,  swamp chestnut oak, willow oak, red maple, and cottonwood. 

Ash species are no longer recommended because of the Emerald Ash Borer.  Use cypress, sweetgum, birch, sycamore, cottonwood, silver maple, and red maple for spacer/trainer trees instead of ash.

Black walnut will grow on uplands, but will not always perform well for timber production.  The wildlife value of walnut remains on less-than-ideal sites.

When we started out with CRP, lots of people wanted all walnut on their ground.  Walnut is very site specific, and after a few years, the Federal agency people had the landowners educated about picking the right trees before I had their paperwork.  All that tree planting made for exciting times.  We made a great difference to the landscape with some of the projects.  The thick ten year old planting shown above actually stopped the Little Wabash river from blowing out into an old channel, which would have destroyed many farm fields.  We had a similar situation along the big Wabash, and with a series of tree plantings on a peninsula we stopped serious erosion to farm fields that was occurring during flood events.  The prairie people still don't like me. 


Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Thank-you sir.

Great post and super information.

David aka True Blue Sam said...

We learned many lessons quickly about planting hardwoods. The USDA wanted grass planted as a cover crop first, and of course they preferred fescue. They also wanted herbicide and mowing to control weeds. I thought about how farmers succeeded with catalpa plantations 100 plus years ago. They did not have fescue or herbicides. Our low-tech approach of planting in crop stubble and leaving the seedlings alone for several years made some of the heads explode in NRCS offices, but it sure works well. Mel Gerardo down at Union Nursery did a great job of providing a huge mix of species for CRP. It bothered him that we were planting persimmons, because he had fought them in bottomland TSI when he was the District Forester at Fairfield. The cooler that my boss built at the Region V office was a huge success factor, too. When I went to school in the 1970's, professors did not talk about planting hardwoods. Pines were the thing, and the planting and growing process was pretty well engineered with site prep and herbicides to control hardwoods. A professor I met at a conference once asked me how we got hardwood plantings to work. That was almost the Twilight Zone!

Merle said...

amazing how things change - both fat and slow!

David aka True Blue Sam said...

I couldn't handle it today. Susan and I would be up late at night finishing paperwork, and I made lots of calls after hours lining up trees and planting contractors. It was common for us to go to the office to work on Sunday nights to keep the Monday to Friday job going right. We picked up our little cat, Bug, fifteen years ago this month on a Sunday trip to the office. Poor little thing was just a kitten with a broken leg on the side of the road.