But a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station study is branching out to show that early planting -- even as early as mid-September - can give slash pine trees a growing head start towards better survivability, thus faster regrowth on harvested or burnt areas.
The key is containers. Rather than plunge the bare roots of tiny trees into the soil, research is showing that seedlings grown in containers until the moment of planting, then planted with the potting medium intact around the roots isn't as shocking to the transplants, according to Dr. Mike Messina, Experiment Station forest scientist.
"Planting earlier is proving to be a good idea, because they do get a better start," Messina said. "The containerized plants are having more than 90 percent survival after that critical first year in the ground."
Bare-root trees planted in September have as little as 60 percent survival, he said.
Messina said the reason bare-root trees are planted in far greater numbers than container-grown trees is cost and efficiency. "Some nurseries annually grow 25 million seedlings on relatively few acres," he explained. "After lifting, they pack about 1,000 of them cardboard boxes or paper bags that one person can easily lift."
Those boxes are easy to transport, light to carry to the field and quickly planted in a matter of seconds, he added. Container-grown trees take up more space, have to be watered more often and are more difficult to transport. But the study may find that the increased survivability offsets the additional effort and cost.
The study is being funded by Boise Cascade Corp. with the research plots located on industrial tree farms in Louisiana. But, Messina said, the findings there are readily adaptable to eastern Texas and other southern forests.
Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications