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Houston County Courier - Local News

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Forestry Update


By Gary Burns
Consulting Forestry

Although the longleaf forest once dominated a large area, it is not a climax forest type. It is a sub-climax forest, kept at that successional level by fire. Natural or man-made fires may have historically occurred every two to four years. Since longleaf is fire tolerant, it survives fires that kill its woody competitors. This results in a monotypic over story, sparse mid story, and diverse herbaceous under story, making functioning longleaf forests one of the most biodiverse forests in the world. *** Longleaf pine seed production is quite unpredictable and good seed crops may only occur every five to seven years and seed failures may happen once every five years, depending on the stand location. Bumper crops in East Texas usually occur only once every fifteen years. The year 2014 was a bumper year for longleaf in the Angelina and Sabine National Forests in East Texas. The longleaf had an average of 45-78 green cones per tree. Autumn seed production may be predicted by visual observation of green cones in the canopy in the spring of the year. *** In the early days of East Texas, longleaf pine could be tapped for resin for up to 20 years before harvest. The resin could then be distilled into turpentine. Resin, a byproduct of the distillation of turpentine, is used by gymnasts and bowlers to improve their grip and to increase the friction between bows and strings on musical instruments. Pine tar and pine pitch was made from heating sap drippings and were used to waterproof seams and joints on such objects as buckets and boats. Because longleaf pine is slow to rot, it was also often used in boat making. *** The organic matter of the forest soil represents a very small portion of the total soil, perhaps less than 1 percent to 15 percent. It does, however, exert a significant influence on its biological, chemical, and physical properties. The soil organic matter is basically decaying plant litter and animal parts attacked by microorganisms. Leaves, twigs, stems, and reproductive structures are the above sources of plant litter, while roots are the primary below ground source. Below-ground litter from fine roots may actually exceed the above ground litter. Original tissue refers to the organic matter that remains recognizable such as twigs and leaves. Humus is the organic matter that has decomposed and is unrecognizable. Humus is what gives the brown color to some topsoil. The topsoil is the most productive soil layer. Most biological activity is present there, as are most plant nutrients available for roots. *** The term friable refers to the ability of a solid to be easily reduced to smaller pieces. In regards to soil, it is classifies as friable when it has moisture enough to break into clods when lifted with a shovel and turned. When the soil is squeezed in your hand, it will not be muddy nor make a mud stain on your hand. Friable soils' crumbly texture is ideal for plant root growth. It also has good drainage, yet retains sufficient moisture. Sandy soils have excessive drainage, unlike clay soils. Loams, a combination of different soil textures, best exhibit friability. Ultisols are comm*o**nly called red clay. The word 'ultisol' refers to this soil order being defined as the ultimate product of mineral weathering in a humid, temperate climate without new soil via glaciation. Ultisols are the common forest soil in warm humid climates. They are frequent in the southeastern United States, extending westward to East Texas. They also occur in the Pacific Northwest and eastern California. Ultisols have a high acidity and low organic matter content. They have an accumulation of silicate clay in the B horizon and, unlike Alfisols, they have low base saturation caused by more intense weathering. In the South, fertilization accompanying planting has generally been limited to phosphorus applications on poorly drained clayey Ultisol soils. Ultisols are generally deficient in available phosphorous and require phosphorus fertilizer for optimum crop yield.


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