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Herbicide site prep by helicopter

Forestry Site Preparation Methods

Site preparation is important when establishing pine plantations as it will help improve seedling survival and growth. There are three methods of site preparation and these methods are often done in conjunction with each other:

  1. Mechanical 
  2. Chemical
  3. Prescribed fire


Mechanical Site Prep

Mechanical Site Prep

Mechanical Site Prep

Mechanical site preparation uses machines such as tractors, dozers, and skidders to push/pile debris and/or preparing the soil for planting. Methods typically consist of shearing, piling, bedding, subsoiling/ripping, drum chopping, and mulching. Since mechanical site preparation can involve soil disturbance (subsoiling, shearing, and bedding), erosion control measures or best management practices (BMPs) need to be implemented to protect soils and water quality. One thing to note with mechanical site preparation is that it does not control competing vegetation well as hardwood tree species and invasive plants will still continue to grow. In order to control competing vegetation, chemical site preparation is often done.

Chemical Site Prep

Chemical site preparation involves the use of herbicides and are a great method to use to control unwanted vegetation which is key to having successful stand establishment. There are several ways to apply herbicides for site preparation with the most common being helicopter and skidder applications. There are also companies looking at using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) for chemical applications. It is also important to know if the herbicide is active in the soil (pre-emergent) and/or foliar active (post-emergent) as this plays a role in when you can replant the site. It is important that you select the correct herbicide and/or tank mixes for the pine species that you will be planting (if pre-emergent herbicide is used), select the correct herbicide based on species needing to control (typically broadleaf/hardwoods, invasive species, and grasses), apply at the correct time of the year, and  apply at the label rate.

Prescribed Fire

The last method of site preparation is prescribed fire. This method is often conducted after chemical site preparation or can be a stand-alone method. Only using prescribed fire though can still result in unwanted vegetation as it is often recommended to first use a herbicide prior to the prescribe burn to effectively control the unwanted vegetation. Timing is also very important. Herbicide site preparation applications are typically completed by the end of the summer with prescribed fire in the fall/winter and replanting that winter.

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Forestry Herbicides for Site Preparation of Pine Plantations

For more information contact Richard Cristan

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