Northwest Management, Inc.—Reforestation Specialist
Purchasing Seedlings: Minimizing Costs While Maximizing Long-Term Viability
It is that time of year again when forest landowners begin thinking about spring tree planting on their property. This is a good thing if the desire is to decorate the yard or build a windbreak. If, however, the desire is to plant several thousand trees for reforestation, the prudent landowner should have begun planning for the event 18-24 months ago in order to get the most out of their seedling dollar.
The cost for seedlings varies based on the species, size, quantity purchased, nursery, shipping etc. Pre planning can minimize some of these costs and will provide some insurance for long-term forest production. The uninformed landowner looking to purchase seedlings today for planting in the spring is most likely going to buy trees that were grown on speculation. These seedlings are usually good in quality, but generally cost 20-30% more, and may be from a seed source less than adequate for the site being planted.
Foresters in the Northwest have gained an appreciation for seed source after studying plantations created from the large forest fires that occurred in the early 1900s. Seed source was often ignored in the 1900s due to a lack of information on the subject and availability of local seed. The results that are appearing decades after the seedlings were planted are trees with serious growth and survival problems. To be specific, the seed came from trees not genetically adapted to exist in the environment in which they were planted, and now those trees have serious growth and health problems.
The following advice will save you money and help insure long-term forest viability.
If time allows for pre-planning on a reforestation project, the forest landowner can save a considerable amount of money by having the seedlings grown under contract with a seedling nursery. Most seedling nurseries have access to seed that will be compatible with the area you wish to reforest. By giving the nursery manager an accurate location and elevation of the planting site, it is often possible to find seed for your project. As a general rule, when placing a contract to grow order for spring planting, the nursery needs to have your order by Thanksgiving for trees to be planted in the spring one year hence. For example, the trees I currently have being grown under contract for this spring (2003), I ordered around Thanksgiving 2001.
If a local seed source is not available, the landowner should consider collecting seed from his/her own property. (Collecting seed is quite detailed and would need to be covered in an additional article). No matter what you do to obtain seedlings for your reforestation project, become knowledgeable of seedling selection. Ask your local private or State foresters about the proper seedlings to grow in a particular area, and ask your seedling supplier about seed source and grow contracts. This will insure that you have long-term success while minimizing the cost of your reforestation investment.