Saturday, October 15, 2005

Field Session on management for value of red pine plantations in the Petawawa Research Forest

Today, I and 14 other members of the Renfrew Chapter of the OWA attended a field session on management for value in red pine plantations in the Petawawa Research Forest. Steve D’Eon, Forest Manager of the Petawawa Research Forest (PRF) hosted the session.
A little background to the Petawawa Research Forest – it was established as a forest research site in 1918 and is the oldest continuously operated forest research centre in Canada. The site encompasses 100 square km; about 85% being productive forest land. It is dominated by mixed wood stands (70%) and also containing stands of hardwood (22%) and softwood (8%). Until 1996 the site hosted the Petawawa National Forestry Institute and more than 2 000 experimental plots and sites were established. In 1996 the research programs were transferred to other Canadian Forest Service research centres across Canada but the PRF remains, has been maintained and serves as a facility for scientific research by the CFS (Canadian Forestry Service) science and technology networks and for co-operating scientists and partners from other agencies.
The program for the session involved plantation red pine (PPr) with three general aspects being examined:
1. Initial spacing: how red pine uses the site and responds to density such as those created by planting at different initial spacing. We visited Crowbar's Field – Crowbar was the name of the farmer who owned the field before it became part of the Forest – within the PRF which has 7'x7', 10'x10', and 12'x12' initial spacing. This site provided excellent teaching tools to illustrate the biology of growing PPr and was very interesting to observe the reaction of the trees under these somewhat clinical conditions.
2. Thinning: how one can manipulate density later in a plantation's life to grow more valuable products. We looked at a first thinning (age ~30+) at the PRF Sturgeon Lakes area and then some older plantations that have been thinned a few times to different residual densities. We also looked at some data from a rich site, data on products and prices for those products and relate our yields/values to the thinning regimes and the site productivity. The Sturgeon Lakes area is on the poorer side of sites.
3. Next crop: Growing the next crop using plantation red pine as a starter crop. We looked at three options on what one can do as a plantation approaches rotation age to start the next forest/plantation. These are, clear cut, plant in strips, under plant Pw using two planting layouts, and catch natural red pine with scarification. Scarification basically means to scratch the duff layer on the ground to expose the mineral soil that thus allows tree seeds to take. This was also at the Sturgeon Lakes area where PRF staff are generally practicing continuous cover forestry using plantations established in the 1930's.
It was an excellent day despite the rain showers.

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