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

Slash is the term used to describe the treetops, limbs and other woody material left behind after a timber harvest. The amount of slash left behind will depend on several factors, including the size and quality of the harvested trees. Universally, how the slash is dealt with is an important consideration in the logging process. Heavy amounts of slash left on the ground can be a fire hazard and it makes tree planting more difficult and more costly.

Piling and burning is the most common method of slash treatment nowadays. However, some landowners are looking for alternatives to burning for various reasons. Pile burning can be challenging due to weather conditions or smoke restrictions. When logging contractors are busy, they may be reluctant to include pile burning in their contract due to the time involved, leaving it up to the landowner. And, there are greenhouse gas considerations with burning slash. For all of these reasons, it is worth looking at the pros and cons of other methods of slash treatment.

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

Back in February I introduced readers to a new initiative that OSU Extension has begun to learn more about how native bees use managed forests. Our first season of data collection is now in the books. I’d like to explain a bit more about how we designed this project and some early takeaways.

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

Insects – they can get a bad rap.  Many of our humankind categorically view them as pests – agents of uncleanliness, nuisance, or destruction. Sure, it’s hard to appreciate houseflies, ticks, mosquitos and yellow jackets, but the vast majority of them – nearly 100,000 known insect species in the U.S. alone –are simply going about their business and doing no harm to us. Many are even providing services that we take for granted such as disposing of detritus and cycling nutrients.

Larval galleries of wood boring insects in a dead ponderosa pine tree

The same goes for insects in the forest. We in Extension receive many photos and samples brought to us from people who suspect that insects are killing their trees. However, I’m here to tell you that if you have a dead or dying tree, then chances are that even though it is full of insects and their tunnels, it’s usually a case of correlation, not causation. Continue reading

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

If you’ve ever been out on a field tour with a bunch of foresters, you probably heard one of them use the term “site productivity” in describing a particular forest, or comparing two different forests. But to the person without a lot of formal forestry background, site productivity may be a vague concept at best. However, it is an underlying attribute that turns out to explain a lot of what we observe in our forests: what types of trees thrive, which seem to have problems, what amount of competition our seedlings face, and more. So let’s take a closer look at site productivity. Continue reading

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

A bumblebee on a lavender flower. Photo credit: David Cappaert, bugwood.org.

The health of insect pollinators is an issue of increasing concern and attention.  Both managed bees (honeybees) and native bees face various threats, including diseases, chemical use, and loss of suitable habitat. While pollinators can include other insects (flies, butterflies, etc.), bees are considered some of the most important. Without healthy bee populations, many flowering crops we humans depend on would not flourish; and native ecosystems that other animals depend on would be impaired.

Because many individuals and organizations are interested in protecting and conserving bees in Oregon, the Oregon Bee Project came into being in order to be a clearinghouse of information, a facilitator of bee conservation and education initiatives. Last week the Oregon Bee Project hosted the PNW Pollinator Summit in Corvallis, a two-day conference designed to bring together researchers, Extension, non-profits, and other groups that are involved in pollinator conservation. I got to attend and was especially interested in the presentations and field trip focused on forests and forestry. Continue reading

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

We’ve discussed ongoing drought stress a number of times on this blog.  But when do we consider it dry enough to be called a drought?  There’s actually a system for that. The United States Drought Monitor updates and releases a national map each week, showing which areas of the country are experiencing drought, and how extreme the conditions are.  A variety of data sources go into their models, which I won’t begin to explain here, but their website has a lot of good information on how they determine drought conditions. In fact, all the data and visual tools on the Drought Monitor website feed the data geek in me; so if you like this sort of thing I encourage you to check it out.

If it seems like this blog has been a broken record stuck on the drought track the last few years, you’re not imagining things. But today, I want to highlight that in northwest Oregon we begin 2019 in a state of Moderate Drought, according to the Drought Monitor (see figure below; click to enlarge), even though we are in the midst of the rainy season. Continue reading

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

Holly foliage usually (but not always) has sharp, prickly lobes.

Rid your land of English holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Tis the season to spot holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

When all the other leaves are gone

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Holly’s deep green stands out strong

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Ok, there’s a good reason I didn’t become a songwriter. The point I want to make, though, is that this is a great time of year to scout your woodland for a common and nefarious invasive plant: English holly. It stays green all year long, so now that herbaceous plants have died back and other shrubs have lost their leaves, it’s easier to spot. Continue reading

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

I’ve been taking part in an OSU Extension program called Oregon Season Tracker (OST) for about five years.  OST is a citizen science program where volunteers keep track of rainfall and plant phenology (seasonal growth patterns) and submit their records to national databases.  OST also connects natural resources managers, landowners, educators, and others in the community with researchers and their science.  At our office in St. Helens, we have an approved rain gauge which we try to check each morning, and a phenology “garden” consisting of two large Douglas-fir trees and some native shrubs.

When I first got involved in OST, my motivation was practical. I thought that having some consistent record of weather and phenology patterns would ultimately be useful in my work in Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.  I wasn’t quite sure exactly how it would be useful. But I figured that since weather affects trees in many ways, something would come of it; and even if not, I would be helping scientists with THEIR research questions. Continue reading

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

Often around this time of year, I’ll get a question from a small woodland owner asking whether it’s worth the trouble to try to water their newly planted tree seedlings. My standard reply has always been “No”.  Of course, in most cases, it’s not even a practical consideration, because the logistical challenges of delivering water to hundreds, if not thousands of seedlings on steep or rough terrain far from any water source far outweigh any potential benefits.  I also point out that our Douglas-fir trees are adapted to withstand dry summers. After all, millions of Douglas-fir trees are planted each year in Oregon, and most of them make it without any supplemental water. And, I know one or two woodland owners who have watered trees that they were concerned about, only to have them die anyway.

But this year, after fielding the question of watering young trees again, I started to think a little more about my standard answer. After all, all signs are pointing another drought year. Scientists predict that summers in the Pacific Northwest are only going to get hotter and drier in the future.  In light of these factors it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta and Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Last week, a large contingent of the OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension team traveled to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for a biennial conference of natural resources Extension professionals. Besides the chance to exchange ideas with our colleagues from across the country, these meetings afford the opportunity to learn about the ecology and natural resources issues that define the geography of the meeting location.

We learned that the forests of Mississippi are quite diverse. They are defined by their topography, proximity to the coast, and (as in Oregon) landowner objectives. While on the surface they seem about as far from Oregon’s forests as you can get, there are some similarities to the forest systems and issues we have back home. We thought we’d share a bit about the interesting forests that we saw and learned about on our visit. Continue reading