Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Conifer trees around the Valley continue to show signs of severe drought and heat stress this year. This should not be news to many readers:  young dead trees are now a common sight throughout the Valley.  Also, I wrote about this problem in past Tree Topics blogs (See stories from  May and September 2015 for background) but have new updates for this season.DSCN2333cr

I think you can expect to continue seeing similar damage to Douglas-fir this year and that symptoms will continue to unfold as the season progresses. Some of the trees damaged late last year did not show that damage immediately. The damage did not become evident until the trees came out of dormancy and began to grow this spring.  Also, the various insect and disease organisms that take advantage of       weak and damaged trees are likely to continue with their business this year, causing new signs of drought damage to show up during the season.  Happily, those players like Douglas-fir cankers and twig weevils do not typically blow up and kill healthy trees.  This suggests things will look much like what we saw and described last year and is likely to continue to unfold this season and maybe longer, whatever weather we get.  “It is important to understand that the effects of drought damage do not go away suddenly when the rain starts again” cautions Christine Buhl, ODF Forest Entomologist “drought can impact the tree’s whole plumbing structure, and affect the growth and vigor of the tree for years.”

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Many aesthetic and habitat objectives of family forest landowners come with older, less dense stands like this stand of about 70 years. It is important to get on this path early.
Many aesthetic and habitat objectives of family forest landowners come with older, less dense stands like this stand of about 70 years. It is important to get on this path early.

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In previous segments I argued that many people have too many trees in their young stands   which may be costly and harmful to the long term growth of the stand. Most importantly, having too many trees at this stage can undermine common landowner objectives of growing attractive, longer rotation diverse forest habitats and can force landowners into shorter rotations than imagined.

While this suggests that people should think about planting fewer trees per acre in the future (a step deserving some careful consideration), it highlights the need for pre-commercial thinning in many existing stands to correct overstocking at an early age. This may include your stand.

But pre-commercial thinning (PCT) seems to have fallen out of common practice lately. It has come to be seen (mistakenly, I think) as an avoidable expense rather than an important investment in the stand. An investment that begins to shape how the stand will look and behave in the future and which adds resilience and options to the landowners’ woodland portfolio.

The idea of PCT is to avoid harmful overcrowding later by removing excess trees early on. PCT lets the remaining “leave trees” grow faster and larger before serious crowding sets in. This means that trees reach a usable size sooner, and hopefully allows the very important first thinning harvest (also called a commercial thinning) to be done “on time” when the stand is in its 20’s.  This first thinning harvest  is costly and the difference between it being another  big expense for the landowner rather than breaking even or even paying some small profit, often comes down to the size of the trees harvested.  PCT is meant to ensure that this very important thinning harvest operation can pay for itself. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

 

Pretty much every landowner I know has a weed issue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome are fairly short term and narrow, such as controlling common weeds in a new tree planting. Others are much longer term and less defined, such as keeping invasive species at bay in the woodland, or perhaps encouraging  native plants in a meadow or streamside restoration.

There are multiple approaches to weed management, including preventing new weed introductions, mechanical or physical control such as mulching or mowing and the use of herbicides. Most people use a mix of two or more of these approaches, with many including herbicides as one of the methods they use.

Here are some key resources to help you manage your weed issues.

 

ec1563Invasive Weed Identification and Management EC 1563 

It is important to know the enemy, and this is a good place to start, beginning with the 3-page introduction. This publication goes on to describe the identifying characteristics, origin, habitat, ecology and management strategies for selected invasive weeds in the Pacific Northwest. This list is not inclusive of all invasive weeds, but focuses on the most dominant or potentially invasive species that plague us. Check PNW Weed Management Handbook for current herbicide recommendations.

 

The Nature Conservancy’s Weed Control Methods Handbook

A useful resource for many types of landowners, the Weed Control Methods Handbook: Tools & Techniques for Use in Natural Areas provides detailed information about weed control techniques including manual and mechanical methods, grazing, prescribed fire, biological control, and herbicides.  Check PNW Weed Management Handbook for current herbicide recommendations.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In my travels around the mid-Willamette Valley, I am seeing a lot of young conifer stands (generally Douglas-fir up to 20 something years old) with just too many trees. Why do I say there are too many trees?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I know many people in this part of western Oregon who are patiently waiting for their trees to grow, hoping to do a commercial thinning (meaning sell the harvested trees to make at least a small profit) when their stand is about 25 years old.

 

All too often it is not working out that way. Instead, as the stand approaches the target age they find that trees have already become too crowded, with too many small, slow growing trees in the stand. The trees are still too small to support a profitable thinning operation yet. To thin at that point is to do so at a cost, although it may be best for the woodland in the long-run. To delay the thinning and wait for the trees to grow enough to make the thinning operation profitable is appealing. It may avoid the short term expense but is likely to weaken the stand at a long-term cost of growth, stand stability and future options. It is a classic “pay now or pay later” situation.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

“What’s with all the logging going on?” is a comment I’ve heard more than once recently. Rural residents of northwest Oregon seem to be noticing an uptick in timber harvest from their industrial neighbors over the past year or so. I wondered whether these observations were simply anecdotal, or if they signaled a rebound from the recession, or if they were evidence of a more historic rise in harvest rates. So I decided to dig into some local data on recent forest ownership and harvest trends. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

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Image from http://www.readyforwildfire.org/

At our home, my wife has resolved to work on emergency preparedness this year. Sure, we have a pantry full of food, jugs of water, flashlights and batteries. Heck, anyone living in a rural area keeps those things on hand for comfort in semi-regular storm events.

But how about the really big events or when something very different, like a wildland fire happens? Are you and your family ready? Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Recent posts on this blog have examined the problem of forest seedling supplies for small woodland owners, and the compromises that sometimes come with limited seedling choices. While the situation has gotten worse in the last couple of years, it is not a new dilemma. Cooperative seedling buying programs, where a group of landowners collectively contract with a nursery for their seedling needs, are one way that small woodland owners have worked to ensure a reliable seedling supply for themselves and their neighbors.

Loading seedlings into WCSWA trucks and trailers. Photo: Bob Shumaker
Loading seedlings into WCSWA trucks and trailers. Photo: Bob Shumaker

Both the Columbia and Washington County chapters of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association (CCSWA and WCSWA, respectively) have organized annual seedling programs for their members for the last 15+ years. The two programs have much in common, with a few differences. They each sell about 50,000-70,000 seedlings/year, distributed among dozens of members. Paul Nys (CCSWA) and Bob Shumaker (WCSWA) have been organizing forces behind these programs since their outset. I talked with Paul and Bob to shed some light on the benefits and challenges of keeping these programs going for the benefit of groups in other areas that may want to consider this approach. Continue reading

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

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Here is something you should know: Seedlings are in short supply for this winter’s planting season, and the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.

So what is up? The seedling situation represents something of a perfect storm, with demand rising just as production is down. This is bad news for the folks who’ve noticed timber prices are up a bit and are thinking of a harvest sometime soon.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

For those so inclined, pruning season is now open.

There are many reasons people pick up a saw or loppers to prune up their trees in young stands.   The most common motivations I hear are accessibility, aesthetics and fire resistance/prevention.  Even pruning up just a single- eight foot “lift” can serve any or all of those objectives.  DSCN2267

People want to be able to walk freely around the place without fighting through dense brush the whole way. So many prune to open trails or corridors. This allows them to get to favorite spots more easily, or just get around and see how things are doing. It lets them enjoy the property more (daily walks or bird watching) and also to more easily take care of tasks like spot spraying invasive weeds. Pruning a whole block of trees improves not just access but opens up the line of sight. It quickly changes the look and feel of a young stand and gives the stand an open aesthetic that many people like.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Like just about any small woodland, the Matteson Demonstration Forest has its share of invasive weeds. Besides familiar and ubiquitous foes such as Scotch broom and thistles, one of particular concern is knapweed.

Meadow knapweed, photo by Eric Coombs, OR Dept of Ag, bugwood.org
Meadow knapweed, photo by Eric Coombs, OR Dept of Ag, bugwood.org

With purple flowers emerging from roundish bases at the top of a tall stalk, knapweeds superficially resemble a sort of spineless thistle, and in fact they are relatives of thistles, botanically speaking. They are biennial (2-year life cycle) to perennial plants and reproduce by seed. Fairly inconspicuous in the winter and spring; at this time of year, their purple flowers betray their location on and along roadbeds and other disturbed areas. Continue reading