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The Development of Pine Plantation Silviculture in the Southern United States

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In the 1950s there were vast acreages of cutover forestland and degraded agricultural land across the South. Less than 2 million ac of southern pine plantations existed at that time. By the end of the 20th century, there were 32 million ac of southern pine plantations in the US South and this region is the wood basket of the world. The success story that is southern pine forestry was facilitated by the application of research results generated through cooperative work of the US Forest Service, southern forestry schools, state forestry agencies, and forest industry. This article reviews the contributions of applied silvicultural research in tree improvement, nursery management, site preparation, weed control, and fertilization to plantation forestry in the South. These practices significantly increased productivity of southern pine plantations. Plantations established in the 1950s and 1960s, which produced less than 90 ft3 ac1 yr−1, have been replaced by plantations established in the 2000s, which may produce in excess of 400 ft3 ac1 yr−1. Currently, southern pine plantations are among the most intensively managed forests in the world. Growth of plantations managed using modern, integrated, site-specific silvicultural regimes now can rival that of plantations of fast-growing exotic species in the Southern Hemisphere.
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Keywords: fertilization; loblolly pine; site preparation; tree improvement

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

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