Remember those Magic 8 balls where you would ask a question, shake the ball, and get an answer? I wish life were that simple.

Extension agents get a lot of questions. Some say we are notorious for always answering with “well, it depends.” As an Extension agent I’m as guilty as anyone of using “it depends”, and not because I want to dodge your question. Usually there is more than one answer; more information is needed; and ultimately, you are the one who will be able to answer your own question after more a more thorough evaluation. Here is a sampling of inquiries I’ve received by phone, email, or Ask an Expert over the past few weeks, to illustrate this. Continue reading

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

Our tour hosts (left) with local Extension forestry agent Paul Oester

Last week I traveled to sunny Eastern Oregon for the OSU Extension Forestry team’s annual planning meeting. To kick things off, our group spent an afternoon with Tom and Cindy Beechinor, who are active forest landowners, Master Woodland Managers, and dedicated Extension supporters in the Blue Mountains above the town of Milton-Freewater. We toured the family’s 640-acre property and learned much about how they care for their land and some of the challenges they face. Some observations: Continue reading

Mist nets are set up in the pre-dawn light where birds move around during normal feeding activities
Mist nets are set up in the pre-dawn light where birds move around during normal feeding activities

 

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

I often try to write stories that make a connection between the birds you find in a place and the habitat conditions there. Because habitat is something we can create or alter by our forest practices, this illustrates an opportunity for interested landowners to manage their properties to improve woodland habitat conditions for particular birds. While we focus on birds, it is an illustration that applies to all woodland fauna. Animals tend to be quite responsive to habitat conditions.

Birds are fun, abundant and easy to observe by watching and listening, which makes them a good group of animals for landowners to key in on. In fact, lots of what we know about birds, and how they use different places (migratory arrivals and departure, where the feed and nest) has been gained through careful observation.

But capturing and banding birds is another important tool available to researchers that lets them add another layer of information. By capturing birds, we can learn about their general condition (weight, fat reserves) gender and age distribution, that gives insight on things such as general health or their readiness for breeding or migration. And when lucky enough to recapture a banded bird, we learn valuable details about how they have moved and fared in the time between captures. Continue reading

ODF photo
ODF photo

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

It is never really too early to think about fire season.  With fire season comes rules and regulations that affect both the general public and forest landowners.  Nearly everyone is affected by some, such as rules for basic fire tools to be carried when driving on forest roads during regulated use  as reported last summer.

If you operate during fire season, then there are other specific rules regarding fire prevention and preparedness that will apply to you.  These roles address water supply and fire equipment, fire watch and preventative actions and steps that are meant to prevent wildfire and protect landowners from fire damage, injury and fire cost liability. Continue reading

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

Even a wall of blackberries can be tackled
Even a wall of blackberries can be tackled

In recent entries in this series on the basics of herbicide use in weed control, I have reviewed how some foliar herbicides work, and the relationship between the plant’s physiology and the herbicides’ behavior. Now I want to illustrate how that that information translates to what gets done in the woods, looking at controlling blackberries, a frequent target of foliar herbicides.

Blackberries are a problem because they are widely dispersed by birds and start readily from seed and once established, rapidly spread vegetatively by tip rooting, quickly forming daunting patches seemingly too tall and wide to tackle. We’ve all seen these conditions in old pastures, riparian areas and struggling plantations. Continue reading

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

In previous installments of this series on the basics of herbicide use in weed control, I distinguished between foliar and soil active herbicides, describing foliar herbicides as those applied to the leaves or stems of plants to be absorbed and carried throughout the plant to affect control. In the previous post I began discussing foliar herbicides in more detail with an overview of glyphosate.

In this entry I will look at a group of herbicides called “growth regulators” that include some important foliar herbicides and popular weed and brush killers commonly used in forestry, agriculture and habitat restoration. Continue reading

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

In my previous installment of this series on the basics of herbicide use in weed control, I distinguished between foliar and soil active herbicides. In this post I begin discussing foliar herbicides in more detail. Note: The attention given to herbicides in this series does not indicate an advocacy for their use but an acknowledgement that using herbicides presents some unique risks, and that landowners and managers need to know enough about them to make informed decisions on their use.

Foliar herbicides are applied to the leaves or stems of plants to be absorbed and carried throughout the plant to affect control. They are common and widely used to control annual and perennial herbs and also woody shrubs. Continue reading

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

Weed control is a top of mind topic now for many landowners. Following this spring’s strong log market, a lot of folks will be reforesting a harvest unit. Others may be planting a field of Christmas trees, or a swath of trees and shrubs as a restoration project to improve habitat conditions. And it seems everyone is struggling to control one invasive weed or another on the property.

While a number of approaches and strategies (including mowing, pulling and mulching) can and are used in managing weeds, many people will use herbicides as at least part of their approach. This is no surprise given their demonstrated effectiveness and efficiency. But not all users are well-versed in vegetation management, or the science behind it, so some review of herbicides seems to be in order. The attention given to herbicides in this and later articles does not indicate an advocacy for their use but an acknowledgement that using herbicides presents some unique risks, and that landowners and managers need to know enough about them to make informed decisions on their use.

Now, it is important to realize that one need not be a crop scientist to use herbicides. The label gives instructions that ensure the safe and allowable use of an herbicide, so the label needs to be read and followed. But responsible and effective use of herbicides requires some additional understanding about herbicides and how they work, as well as knowledge about the life cycle and other characteristics of both crop and target plant species they will be used with. Let’s begin talking about some basics. Continue reading

signsFire Season is now or soon will be in effect in much of the Tree Topics reading area, as declared by the State Forester according to regional fire conditions. So I got online to see what’s been declared. I went over to the ODF Wildfire website and clicked on Forest Restrictions and Closures  section. There you can find links to an overview of the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL), closures and other information about fire regulations and restrictions. Continue reading

Last week, we kicked off our Master Woodland Manager training in northwest Oregon. Over the next six months the class will explore many aspects of small woodlands management and the trainees will come away with a better understanding of their own lands as well as a foundation from which to assist others.

We started out with a field tour where we investigated the environmental factors that influence forest growth on a given site. In particular, we wanted to see how variations in climate, topography and soil shape species composition, forest productivity, and management opportunities.

We went to five different sites, at various elevations and topographic positions from the uplands to the Valley floor. Despite the sites all being within a four-mile radius, we saw striking differences in the vegetation. The uppermost site supported a fast-growing stand of Douglas-fir and red alder. Further along, we came upon a rocky, south-facing site dominated by madrone and some not-as-fast-growing Douglas-fir; but this was just a few hundred yards from another site where the madrone were gone. Calculating the site index revealed that the Douglas-fir here were growing faster.

As we traveled down the watershed, the steep slopes along an upland creek supported alder and western redcedar. But on the flats further down the watershed, at our last stop on the Valley floor, the dominant species were Oregon white oak, Oregon ash, and valley ponderosa pine; the Douglas-fir at this last stop looked like they had caught a bad case of the crud.

Prior to the field tour, we spent some time learning how to find information about soils. The Web Soil Survey is a really handy tool for identifying soil types and learning about their properties. Using the Web Soil Survey, we mapped out our field sites and found some possible clues to our site differences. According to our soils map, the madrone were growing on a gravelly Saum soil, whereas the taller firs down the road were on the more productive Jory soil.

soil map

A recently formed gully at the latter site gave us the opportunity to see the soil profile which revealed a deep silty clay loam.

Jory soil profile

Jory phone screenRecently I’ve discovered SoilWeb, which has become one of my favorite natural resources-related mobile apps, available for both the iPhone and Android. Using your phone’s GPS capability, SoilWeb accesses the soil data from the Web Soil Survey for the soil right underneath your feet. That is, assuming A) that you are in a place where you can get a phone signal and B) that the soil maps accurately reflect the soil on your site. As we learned on our field trip, soil types as mapped often contain unmapped pockets of other soils.  The SoilWeb app doesn’t give you everything you can find on Web Soil Survey, but you can quickly ascertain the soil texture as well as the expected depth, drainage, and other important features.

The takeaway from our tour was that what’s growing on your forest can be a clue to your site’s underlying environmental influences, and vice-versa. The growing number of applications such as SoilWeb makes it easier to be a site “sleuth”, finding those clues and piecing together the puzzle.

Amy Grotta