There are several treatments that may be necessary to maintain the productivity of your forest stands after they are established. Tree density, fire, insects and diseases, and competition from undesirable trees pose some challenges to stand development. We can mitigate these factors with the use of fire, chemicals and some cuttings.
To keep wildfires out of the stand, we can create and maintain fire lines or strips of bare soil around the perimeter of the stand. Fire lines are constructed by plows or disks drawn by a tractor.
Fight Fire with Fire
Once the trees are large enough (7 inches dbh), use prescribed fires to reduce the fuel at ground level, thus significantly reducing the danger of wildfire. See our Fire page for more information about prescribed burns.
Insects and diseases are natural components of the southern pine ecosystem. Their ecological purpose is to recycle the energy and nutrients of the stand. Some of these insects and diseases become pests when they inhibit pine regeneration and growth. These problems must be detected early if they are to be treated with success. The economic losses can be very high if these problems are not managed.
The various insects and diseases that affect pine stands in the south require different conditions to survive or reproduce. Many insects and diseases will use trees that are old, dead or stressed in some way; while others prefer those that are young, vigorous, and fast-growing. Thinning is an important tool in preventing problems with, and/or removing trees that are damaged by, insects or diseases.
Fusiform rust is a native, fungus-caused disease which kills and deforms pines. Since the late 50s and early 60s, it has increased to epidemic proportion in slash and loblolly pine plantations throughout the South. This disease was first reported in the early 1900s and was neither widespread nor prevalent at that time. The spread of fusiform-rust increased as the intensity of pine management in the south increased. The fungus causing fusiform rust is greatly favored in young, rapidly growing, pine plantations of susceptible species (slash and loblolly pines), especially when established in high- rust hazard areas.
Also, current land use patterns often place susceptible pines in close proximity to the fungus’ alternate hosts - red oaks; as does a reduction in controlled burning and suppression of wildfires, which favors oak abundance. All trees infected with fusiform-rust disease should be removed in a thinning.
Southern Pine Beetle
Southern pine beetle (SPB) is a native, aggressive insect that lives predominantly in the inner bark of pine trees. Trees attacked by SPB often have hundreds of dime-size resin masses (i.e., pitch tubes) on the outer tree bark. SPB feed on living tree tissue where they construct winding S-shaped galleries, which can effectively girdle and kill a tree. SPB also carry, and introduce into trees, blue-stain fungi.
These fungi colonize the living tissue and block water flow within the tree, also causing tree mortality. Once SPB have successfully colonized a tree, the tree cannot survive, regardless of control measures. An important way to prevent a SPB infestation in your pines is to thin dense stands to a basal area of 80 sq. ft. per acre or less. More information about SPB and its control can be found in the Extension Publication: Southern Pine Beetle, Dendroctonus frontalis Zimmermann (Insecta: Coleoptera: Scolytidae).
See our Insects & Diseases page for more information.