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Daniel Dunwell, RF
Southeastern Forestry Services, LLC

P.O. Box 91161
Mobile, AL 36691
(251) 610-8808 phone
Email: dtdunwell@gmail.com
 

Danny Dunwell Forestry Field Day: Why and How to Plant Longleaf.

Danny Dunwell is a consulting forester and real estate agent based in Mobile, Alabama. Joining him for a field day on January 15, 2021 were consulting forester Charles Taylor and Summer Stidham, a soil conservationist with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). Read on for notes from this event.

Why longleaf?

First and foremost, it’s one of the main native species for southern Alabama, in Escambia and surrounding counties. It famously has a longer growing time, but according to Dunwell, “if you treat it right and have the right site, it will outproduce loblolly” in the end.
Longleaf is especially suitable not just for high-value forest products like poles or pinestraw, but for hunting some species like quail and turkey.

Is my land suitable for longleaf?
Before any decisions are made, landowners should talk to a consulting forester. Not every site is ideal for longleaf. Taylor said he can often judge with a few questions and a look at the land whether it will be a good candidate for longleaf.

Among the considerations is soil type. Generally speaking, longleaf likes well drained, sandy soil. Taylor said that often a forester or well-informed landowner can get a good idea of what will grow well by judging what is already growing on a tract. If it is planted with timber, the forester will look at how well they are growing and look for reasons they might be underperforming, if this is the case. “Indicator species” are other species growing well on the site – sand post oak or turkey oak are often good indicators for soil that is suited to longleaf. Looking at the USDA Web Soil Survey and comparing it against species you see on your land can give you an idea of what to expect.

A final consideration, and one that can be a deal breaker, is whether it will be possible to use prescribed fire on the tract. Land that is too close to town, or otherwise situated where the smoke from burning makes fire impossible, shouldn’t be planted in longleaf. Longleaf doesn’t only tolerate fire, as Dunwell pointed out—it requires fire.

How do I convert my land to longleaf?
The tour visited several sites, including one being prepared for planting. A mix of three herbicides were used: Imazapyr (Arsenal), Triclopyr (Garlon), and Metsulfuron Methyl (Escort). Between nuisance plants and invasive species, skipping herbicides was not recommended. Additional herbicide treatments may be required, alongside burning, to control the understory. Herbicides can also make sure burning is safe if the time between burning events is longer than idea.

Planting longleaf used to be unreliable, with about 50% survival rate for bare root seedlings. Now that container planting is available, 90% success rates and above are easily achievable. Dunwell recommended PRT (https://www.prt.com/) as his most successful source for container longleaf seedlings.

Fire and longleaf
Charles Taylor stressed that if you can’t burn, you shouldn’t plant longleaf. It must have fire to thrive. Dunwell and Taylor recommended a 2 to 3 year burn cycle, and said if it must be pushed to 4, herbicides should be used as well to avoid scorching young trees. Burning will also get rid of brown spot, a fungal tree disease that is prevalent among nursery-raised longleaf.

Any day can be a good day to burn for an expert, depending on the specific conditions and site. Generally, though, you’d want above 32% humidity, 3-15 mph wind, and wind in the right direction for your site’s situation. Classes are offered all over the state for getting a burn certification, but Dunwell mentioned that some foresters, like himself, welcome landowners who want to get hands-on practice on their own land alongside experienced fire managers. Fire breaks are a must, and Dunwell always has a dozer on hand when burning. Often, well-kept roads can serve as good fire breaks.

Dunwell recommended breaking up a large tract into blocks for burning. Burning a smaller portion each year on a rotation can be more sensible in terms of cost, wildlife management, and smoke management.

The day wrapped up with a prescribed fire demonstration, including a fresh fire break and the use of drip torches.

What resources are available to for landowners?

A landowner’s first resource is their consulting forester. Summer Stidham from NRCS also spoke about the cost-share options from the government. Landowners willing to agree to certain stipulations, such as conservation easements or planting longleaf, can apply for financial help with planting, burning, or herbicide costs. They can also help with other services, such as feral swine control.

Summer can be reached at 251-937-3297, Ext. 123, or 251-239-0585.

 

Seeking Clients in these Counties:
Baldwin
Butler
Choctaw
Clarke
Conecuh
Covington
Crenshaw
Escambia
Marengo
Mobile
Monroe
Washington
Wilcox


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