Florida Land Steward
Florida Land Steward
Other Forest Enterprises and Values
Agroforestry is the deliberate combination of trees and/or shrubs with crops and/or animals. The benefits of agroforestry practices are both economic and environmental:
- the total output per unit area of tree/crop/livestock combinations is greater than any single component alone,
- crops and livestock protected from wind are more productive, and
- new products add to the financial diversity and flexibility of the farming enterprise.
Agroforestry helps to conserve and protect natural resources by minimizing non-point source pollution, controlling soil erosion, and creating wildlife habitat. The benefits of agroforestry add up to a substantial improvement of the economic and resource sustainability of agriculture.
Specific agroforestry practices include:
- alley cropping
- riparian buffer strips
- forest farming
Selling firewood can be a profitable forest enterprise in several counties in Florida. The harvesting and marketing of firewood can bring extra income as well as provide an opportunity to improve your forest for other values. If you have a timber harvest planned, wood from the tops and branches left on the site can be sold as firewood.
In Florida a profitable Christmas tree operation is possible, but it requires intensive cultural management if well-shaped, high quality trees are to be produced over a short rotation.
The northern conifers traditionally used as Christmas trees, such as balsam fir, Norway spruce, and Scots pine, will not grow well in Florida. These trees require long, cold winters because they enter a period of dormancy during this time. This dormancy period is essential to their natural development.
We can't grow northern conifers here, but we can grow southern ones. Certain conifers native to Florida will grow well and provide less expensive Christmas trees. Three native tree species are recommended for Christmas tree production in Florida:
- sand pine (Pinus clausa)
- southern redcedar (Juniperus silicicola)
- Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana)
Pine straw is simply the needles that fall from pine trees every year. This pine straw can be raked, baled, and sold to garden centers. Pine straw is used by landscapers and homeowners as a mulch or ground cover in gardens and landscaping.
If you have an established stand of slash pine or longleaf pine that is eight years of age, you are ready to start pine straw management. Slash and longleaf are the only two Florida pine species that can be baled. The needles of other pines are either too short to be baled or are considered to be of inferior quality for use as mulch or cover.
Keep in mind that pine straw management can have negative effects on tree growth and soil productivity. Pine needles serve as shelter for the soil and the nutrients required by trees for growth are recycled when needles decompose on the forest floor. When pine needles are removed, the soil becomes more susceptible to erosion and nutrients are removed from the ecosystem. Fertilization is recommended for stands from which pine straw is frequently harvested.
Growing Shiitake Mushrooms
Some landowners have discovered that growing shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) can generate extra income from your their forestland. Growing these delicacies has proven to be a profitable, worthwhile enterprise for many private nonindustrial forest landowners throughout the country.
Shiitake mushrooms are the most common edible mushroom grown throughout Asia, and they are becoming a more familiar delicacy in oriental food stores and restaurants, specialty food stores, and supermarkets throughout the United States. Growing these mushrooms takes a considerable amount of effort, but it is a relatively simple process. Here is the basic step-by-step procedure for growing shiitakes:
- Cut small live trees into logs 40 inches long and 3 to 6 inches in diameter. Drill 3/8 inch diameter holes 1 inch deep (depending on form of the inocculum), arranged 6 to 10 inches apart down the length of the log. Space the rows 2 to 3 inches apart. In Florida, logs from water oak (Quercus nigra), southern red oak (Quercus falcata), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), turkey oak (Quercus laevis), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sycamore (Platanus americana), and ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana) are considered to be the best for shiitake mushroom cultivation.
- Into the drilled holes, insert shiitake spawn (fungus on a substrate such as sawdust) obtained from a supplier. Seal with a soft melted wax. Be sure not to expose the spawn to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. The heat of direct sunlight can kill shiitake mushrooms during hot weather. Generally, the best time to inocculate the logs is in the spring after the last hard frost or at least 2-3 weeks before the first frost.
- Stack the prepared logs on end at an angle, with about 2 inches of space between them. In Florida, a heavily-shaded area (at least 75% shade) exposed to rain and good air movement is best. These conditions will protect the logs from direct sun and reduce the chance of contaminating the fungi. To maintain moisture, wet the logs with a sprinkling of 2 to 8 hours duration. This should be done no more than once or twice a month.
- Fruiting will generally occur 9-12 months after inocculated. Rainy, cool weather will generally induce fruiting. To "force" fruiting at other times, immerse the logs for 24 hours in cold water. Mushrooms will appear about a week later. Mushrooms can be forced to fruit 3 to 4 times a year. Pick the mushrooms when the caps have unfurled, but before they are flat.
Note: Heavy rain can damage mushrooms, so it is important to keep them under some sort of shelter.
More Resources on Alternative Enterprises
UF-IFAS Extension Bookstore
Forest management has steadily evolved throughout the last century. Over the last decade or more, the most common shift in thinking and planning has been toward an "ecosystem-based" management approach. This ecosystem-based approach involves:
- focusing on long term resource sustainability
- maintaining and enhancing biodiversity
- thinking in broad spatial and temporal scales
- integrating economics, sociology and ecological systems in planning
- adapting management plans in response to monitoring and new scientific information
- recognizing the complexity and interconnections of ecosystems
- recognizing that humans are part of the ecosystem
Restoring Longleaf Pine Sandhill Communities
Sandhill or high pine communities are upland savanna-like ecosystems typified by an open overstory of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and a ground cover of perennial grasses (primarily wiregrass) and forbs interspersed with oaks. High pine ecosystems once encompassed the following community types: sandhill, clayhill, longleaf pine/turkey oak barrens, and upland pine forests.
Ancient ecosystems such as this one often bring us a sense of posterity and remind us of the balance of natural forces over time. In natural longleaf pine forests, intervals between burns were 3 to 4 years. When fire is suppressed, these longleaf communities will succeed to hardwood forests characterized by higher shading, greater litter accumulation, and less herbaceous vegetation than in longleaf forests.
Florida Forestry Information
- Scrub and High Pine Ecosystems
- The Longleaf Alliance
University of Florida Extension Publication
One method many forest managers are using to restore longleaf pine ecosystems is reintroduction of fire to sandhills. However, fire is a successful restoration tool only when there is a sufficient ground cover of grass and pine needles, which act as a major fuel source.
Stands which have been excluded from fire for 15 to 30 years lack sufficient ground fuel to support an effective fire. This lack of ground fuel restricts fire's intensity and its ability to spread. As a result, new restoration methods must be introduced.
For more information about prescribed burns, visit our Fire page.
Forest herbicides such as hexazinone have been used with success to suppress the growth of midstory oaks while promoting the growth of longleaf pine seedlings and wiregrass (Aristida stricta), the understory grass species associated with longleaf pine.
Chemical Effects of Hexazinone
Hexazinone is a selective herbicide registered for use in pine management for site preparation, release, and herbaceous weed control. It is absorbed from the soil solution by plant roots. Inside the plant it binds to a specific protein and inhibits important reactions necessary for the plant to survive.
This herbicide is more effective on soils with high sand content, low pH (acidic), and low organic matter content. These conditions are typical of soils in the southeastern U.S. Southern pines and grasses are more resistant to hexazinone, while oaks are more susceptible, making it a good candidate for assisting in the restoration of sandhill plant communities.
Hexazinone is soluble in water and has been found to persist in the soil for relatively short periods of time. It is not registered for aquatic use so it must not be applied in close proximity to such areas. As always, read all herbicide labels before use.
See our Vegetation Management page for more information.
The tremendous human population growth expected in the coming decades in Florida will likely result in higher land values and increased development potential. In order to maintain forest or agricultural lands, property owners may need to consider multiple uses for their lands. One possible alternative for increasing the value of "undeveloped" land is leasing the property for various recreational uses such as hunting, camping, fishing and other activities which result in minimal impact on the area.
For more information, read the University of Florida Extension Publication: Recreation Options for Your Forestland.
Ecotourism is a growing opportunity for rural landowners in Florida as an increasing number of people are in search of recreational opportunities in natural areas. With proper planning, landowners providing these types of recreational opportunties can generate supplemental income. See these Web sites and publications about ecoutourism opportunities in Florida:
University of Florida SFRC Extension
Trails are the most common improvements made to facilitate recreation. Forest trails are used as part of the recreational experience, or as a means to reach a recreational setting such as a hunting area.
When planning a trail system for your property, you should answer the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the trail system?
- How extensive will the trail system be?
- Who will use the trails?
- How much will the trails be used?
- Will there be any potential conflicts between users?
- Where will access and parking be located?
- Will any supporting facilities (garbage cans or restrooms) be provided?
University of Florida Extension Publication
Leasing land for hunting purposes is becoming a more popular option for landowners in the South. The benefits range from increased income to better guardianship of the land by frequent lessee use.
If you are interested in organizing hunting lease arrangements on your land, there are several things that you can do to provide the appropriate food and cover for wildlife on your property. See our Wildlife Management information further down on this page for more information.
Wildlife is one of the most important topics for Forest Stewardship landowners. Quality wildlife habitat includes the right combinations of food, cover and water. While food plots can supplement habitat, they are no substitute for healthy, diverse forested landscapes in providing habitat for diverse and abundant wildlife populations. Food plots can also be expensive and susceptible to failures due to climactic extremes, insects or diseases. Managing native vegetation in permanent wildlife openings is less costly and can be very effective.
Providing Food for Wildlife
Food is the first essential element that you can help provide for wildlife on your land. Food requirements vary among wildlife species.
Mast is the term used to describe the seeds and fruits of plants which are eaten by animals. Mast is most likely one of the most important naturally-occurring wildlife food sources on your property.
There are 2 types of mast available to wildlife:
- Hard mast is the nuts and twigs of trees and shrubs. Acorns, produced by oaks, are an important type of hard mast.
- Soft mast is the seeds, catkins, and berries produced by plants. Walnut, hickory and other trees produce soft mast.
It is very important to consider the fruiting patterns of mast-producing plants so decisions can be made about their managment. Fruiting habits vary by species and locality and among trees of a species.
For example, white oaks flower and bear fruit in one growing season, so the acorns of white oaks are found on the current year's growth. Red oaks flower and bear fruit in one growing season, but the acorns are not mature until the following season.
Such differences make it desirable to have a variety of mast-producing species such as hickories (Carya spp.), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica var. sylvatica), dogwood (Cornus spp.), and others as well as oaks (Quercus spp.) on your property so that food is available in each season.
For more detailed information on mast, read the University of Florida Extension publication, Making the Most of Your Mast.
Methods of Providing Food
An edge is a place where different plant communities, successional stages or vegetative conditions meet. Shrubs, vines, and other important wildlife food plants can be planted or managed for along the edges of fields, lawns, plantations, roads, water bodies or other openings. These plants also serve as cover and may improve the aesthetic qualities of the property.
Edge plantings should be at least 20 feet in width. Removing trees and allowing natural succession to take place is usually adequate to promote growth of shrubs and vines. If shrubs and vines fail to take root on an edge, planting may be necessary.
- A clever and inexpensive way to plant these areas is to plow a strip, then stretch a wire or cord between poles along the center. Birds will perch on the line and do the planting for you.
If you want more control over plant species, transplanting from elsewhere on the property may be a relatively inexpensive solution. A more costly alternative is to order nursery stock. Wax myrtle, autumn olive, Russian olive, native hollies, mountain laurel, hawthorn, crabapple, dogwood, wild plums, bicolor lespedeza, sumac, and blueberries are some species suitable for edge planting. Allow these species to grow into solid thickets, which will provide both food and cover.
If you need to remove trees to provide sufficient light to plantings, consideration should be given to which trees are removed. Cherries, apples, and nut producers have high food value, so it will be beneficial to leave a few of these scattered along the edge strips.
Food plots are somewhat costly, but they provide food for deer, rabbits, racoons, game birds, and other animals. This method involves planting fields with grain, corn, legumes, and other plants having ultra-high nutritional value for wildlife.
The size of food plots varies, but are usually 1/8 to 1 acre in size. Plantings can be done annually on an entire plot or the field can be divided into strips. Each year a different strip can be plowed and planted.
- According to the Woodland Steward by James Fazio, the recommended yearly sequence of working strips is 1 - 3 - 5 - 2 - 4.
As with any crop, site preparation, fertilization, and suitability of the soil for the crop are important considerations when planning food plots. Contact your local fish and game department, the Soil Conservation Service, or the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service for advice on what crops to plant in order to meet your objectives, what site preparation treatments are necessary for those crops, and the suitability of the soil on your property for the desired crops.
See these Extension publications providing detailed information on agronomic wildlife forages:
- A Walk on the Wild Side: 2007 Cool-Season Forage Recommendations for
Wildlife Food Plots in North Florida
- 2007 Wildlife Forages for North Florida - Part I: Cool Season Food Plots
- A Native Growing Season Forage for Wildlife - Teaweed, Sida acuta Burm. f
- Establishing and Maintaining Wildlife Food Sources
Fruit & Nut Plantations
Fruit and nut plantations are another way to attract wildlife to your property. Faster-maturing species like sawtooth oak, red mulberry, honey locust, common persimmon, black cherry, and Chinese chestnuts should produce fruit by age 10.
Once these mast producers bear fruit, monitor them for about 3 years and note which trees are productive and which ones are not. As thinning becomes necessary, remove the poor-producing trees to provide additional light and space for the best-producing trees. See our Mid-rotation Treatments page for more information about thinning.
In the case of dioecious* species such as red mulberry and common persimmon, only the female trees bear fruit. Remove most of the male trees but leave a few for pollination; only a small number are necessary.
*Dioecious: male and female reproductive structures are on separate plants.
Maintaining Open Spaces
Deer, certain bird species, and other wildlife require open spaces. Grasses, insects, berries, small mammals, nesting habitat, and space to watch for predators and for territorial displays are all found in open spaces.
Lack of open space is a problem that is becoming significant in the eastern United States. This problem can be easily corrected by regular mowing in open field areas. If planned properly, these mowed areas may contribute to the visual qualities of the property and can serve as good fire breaks. Visit our Mid-rotation Treatments page for more information about fire breaks.
Use these rules of thumb for planting to attract wildlife:
- When planting areas of 5 to 10 acres, leave openings of approximately 66 feet (1 chain) between the planted area and existing forest.
- For areas greater than 10 acres, leave numerous small openings scattered throughout the plantation.
Visit our Planting page for more detailed information about planting pines.
A Case Study: Wildlife Management on Westvaco lands in the ACE Basin of South Carolina
Westvaco, a large wood fiber-producing corporation incorporates wildlife management on their properties in the ACE Basin of South Carolina. Westvaco foresters plant trees in alternating strips with unplanted strips. The unplanted strips are given one or more of the following treatments:
- Disked and mowed for natural grasses
- Planted with crimson clover in the fall
- Left undisked on the edges so tall plants can grow to "blend" the edge
- Planted with mixtures of sunflowers, soybeans, millet, and wheat
Basic guidelines that Westvaco uses to manage for deer are to create edges with honeysuckle, blackberry, and greenbriar. Turkeys require a mosaic of stand ages, with about 40 acres in each age group, and feed on a variety of insects, vegetation, and snails. Stands with sufficient vertical structure are used for nesting.
Cover is an essential element of wildlife habitat that forest landowners can easily provide. Wildlife require cover for escape, nesting, and protection from weather.
Nesting, Hiding, and Escape Cover
There are 3 general ways to improve nesting, hiding, and escape cover for wildlife on your property:
- Herbaceous Openings
Herbaceous openings are areas where the ground is covered with a mixture of grasses and other herbaceous (nonwoody) plants. These areas are important for escape, nesting, brood rearing, and food for a variety of birds and mammals such as cottontail rabbits and broods of ruffed grouse, quail, and turkey.
- Shrub or Seedling Brush Areas
These areas are valuable as nesting cover, escape cover and as a food source for a variety of birds and mammals. Allow some areas of trees and shrubs to grow more densely than silvicultural guidelines for timber might dictate. If you are managing planted pines, leave untreated (no herbicide or mowing) strips every 8-10 rows.
- Brush Piles
These provide cover for small birds and mammals. Creating brush piles can also assist with brush control after logging. Keep in mind that brush piles useful to wildlife must have space within to allow movement.
There may be several good nest sites that already exist on your property, and you should be aware of these so they continue to benefit cavity-using wildlife species.
One of the most important naturally-occurring nest cavity sites is the snag. A snag is a standing dead or dying tree that is suitable as a perch or nest site for cavity-using birds and mammals. Snags provide both food (insects) and cover, which makes them very important to the distribution and abundance of many wildlife species. Snags are produced naturally by fire, disease, lightning, flooding, and drought.
Woodpeckers and other small birds feed on insects that are found on snags, and birds of prey frequently use snags as hunting perches. Songbirds that occupy edge or open habitats use snags as singing perches. Woodpeckers use resonant undecayed portions of snags as drumming sites for territorial signals.
- Forest managers across the south are discovering that by allowing four species of woodpeckers to reside on the land, about 65% of adult southern pine beetles can be destroyed. Also consider the number and variety of insects consumed by other birds.
Primary cavity nesters depend on trees with fungal heartrots because such trees have softened heartwood allowing easier excavation. It is possible to detect suitable nest site conditions by observing any of the following snag characteristics:
- fungal conks (fruiting bodies) of heartrot species
- dead branch sites
- old wounds on trees
- discolored or soft, decayed wood in increment borer corings
- existing woodpecker holes or cavities
- obvious dead portions of trees
When harvesting timber using even-aged reproduction methods (i.e., clearcuts, shelterwood, seed tree), leave three suitable snags for every 400 feet of edge. Snags should be within 50 feet of the edge of the cut area. On average, 3-5 snags left per acre is sufficient.
Other natural nest sites that may exist on your property may be found in or near wetlands or ponds. Under natural conditions, waterfowl often use mounds of soil, muskrat houses, and large rocks for nest sites. Whenever possible, these structures should be maintained.
- Herbaceous Openings
Prescribed fire is an important timber and wildlife managment tool in southern forests and wildlife habitat changes associated with fire can be dramatic. Fire benefits most wildlife species by providing:
- open habitat conditions preferred by quail, turkey and deer
- a flush of new herbaceous plant growth for wildlife browse
- increased insect and seed production for small mammals and birds
Wildlife diversity and populations increase with a mosaic of successional stages created by a variety of burned and unburned areas over time. For best results:
- vary seasons and intervals of fire
- burn small units
- increase patchiness of burns
It is important to recognize that livestock will compete with wildlife for food. Livestock animals should be restricted to fenced pastures.
If you incorporate wildlife into your management objectives there are some points to consider before making final decisions.
Use Native Species
One of the most fundamental goals of wildlife managment anywhere is to maintain or restore as many "native" populations as possible. The word native is used loosely here because of the dramatic changes that have taken place to the Florida landscape since hunter-gatherer times. Put practically, plant and animal species that are best suited to the site should be managed for.
It is always best to learn about exotic species before planting them because many have the potential to disrupt the balance of native communities.
Visit our Forest Resources section to learn more about invasive exotic plants.
Try to Enhance Diversity
When planting trees for timber production, leave some areas of hardwoods to compliment biological diversity. Pines and hardwoods, though not always economically compatible are very good combinations for creating habitat diversity. Various plant and animal species are associated with different stages of plant succession. Balancing the age structure of a forest accomplishes 2 objectives:
- sustained yield of forest products, and
- diverse wildlife habitat
Since wildlife habitat and timber production have some differing managerial requirements, a small amount of timber production may have to be sacrificed if you are going to meet certain wildlife habitat objectives. As always, seek the assistance of professionals so you can take the most cost-efficient route to meeting your objectives. See our Businesses & Services page for lists of wildlife consultants and consulting foresters.
If you would like to learn more about wildlife or how to manage for specific wildlife species, click on the links below:
- University of Florida Wildlife Extension
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Wildlife Extension Publications
- American Forest Foundation - Center for Conservation Solutions
Florida's Forest Stewardship Program offers a great opportunity for landowners to work with natural resource professionals to develop a management plan that addresses wildlife habitat and other objectives. Contact a Forest Stewardship Program representative to get started in this process.
Other Forest Values References
- Baughman, Mac. 1996. Presentation at the 1996 Society of American Foresters/School of Forest Resources and Conservation Spring Symposium. Gainesville, FL.
- Decker, D.J. et al. 1990. Wildlife and Timber from Private Lands: A Landowner's Guide to Planning. Info. Bul. 193. N.Y.S. Coll. of Agr. and Life Sci. Cornell Univ. Ithaca. 56 p.
- Dickson, James G. et al., ed. 1987. Managing Southern Forests for Wildlife and Fish. General Tech. Report SO-65. USDA Forest Service, New Orleans. 85 p.
- Duryea, Mary L. (ed).1988. Alternative Enterprises for Your Forest Land. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), Univeristy of Florida. Gainesville.
- Duryea, Mary L. and James C. Edwards. 1997. Pine Straw Management in Florida's Forests. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), Univeristy of Florida. Gainesville.
- Fazio, James R. 1987. The Woodland Steward. The Woodland Press, Moscow, ID. 211 p.
- Hay-Smith, Leslie and George Tanner. 1994. Restoring Longleaf Pine Sandhill Communities with an Herbicide. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), Univeristy of Florida. Gainesville.
- Hubbard, Bill and Delaney Faircloth. 1993. Recreation Options for Your Forestland. Forest Stewardship publication. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, Univeristy of Florida. Gainesville.
- Hunter, Malcolm L. Jr. 1990. Wildlife, Forests, and Forestry. Prentice Hall, Inc., Engelwood Cliffs, N.J. 370 p.
- Jackson, Jeff. 1995. Maintaining Permanant CRP Wildlife Plantings. Univ. of Georgia Coop. Ext. Serv. Athens. 3 p.
- Latt, Chris (ed). 1998. Growing Shiitake Mushrooms in Florida. The Florida Forest Steward, vol. 5, no. 1, Forest Stewardship publication, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, Univeristy of Florida. Gainesville.
- Latt, Chris (ed). 1998. Shiitake Mushrooms, Part 2. The Florida Forest Steward, vol. 5, no. 2, Forest Stewardship publication, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, Univeristy of Florida. Gainesville.
- Marion, Wayne R. and Cyndi A. Gates. ?. Hunting Lease Arrangements in Florida and the Southeast. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, Univeristy of Florida. Gainesville.
- Stribling, H. and Michael G. Barron. 1995. Short-term effects of cool and hot prescribed burning on breeding songbird populations in the Alabama Piedmont. South. J. Appl. For. 19(1): 18-22.