Top 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Seedlings
Knowing pine seedling buying options, where to get information, and what’s right for your land is key to getting successful results. We’ve outlined 5 Questions that can help you meet your goals and grow a beautiful, profitable forest.
1. What are my various genetic seedling choices and what are the key differences among them?
No longer are seedlings a commodity purchase so it’s important to know your options. Research and development have brought many choices for every landowner and the ability to improve the return on investment on their pine forest.
As loblolly pine is the most important tree for commercial reforestation in the U.S. South, there are three options for this important species: conventional Open-Pollinated (OP) to Mass Control Pollinated (MCP®) and Varietals. The meticulous and complex process of mass-controlled pollination gives MCP seedlings even stronger and more predictable superior traits that ensure higher growth rates, better log quality thereby yielding more sawtimber trees per acre. And the very best trees are replicated exactly in Varietal seedlings, which offer the maximum return on investment for landowners in their commercial reforestation efforts.
2. What is the experience and background of the person giving you information and advice on your forest investment for your land?
You only have one chance to get it right when it comes to your tree seedling investment. The wrong choice can be a 25-year mistake. It’s important that the person you work with has the experience and education in forestry to really understand all of the factors you need to consider when planting. With that comes the need and the ability to provide the hard, clear data necessary to prove that what they are saying is true. Ask your reforestation advisor about their background and what other landowners have accomplished with their advice. Ask for references from other landowners.
This photo shows Florida Loblolly Pines seedlings planted in Virginia which is not a good idea. It’s imperative to plant seedlings specific to your provenance.
3. Should I plant bareroot or containerized seedlings?
The answer is Yes, and it depends.
Bareroot refers to a tree available for sale with its roots exposed. For most reforestation situations bareroot seedlings will provide survival rates of around 88%-90%. Planting with container seedlings can improve survival on droughty sites and may be planted early in the planting season (October/November) or late season planting (April/May) thus extending the planting season. However, under typical conditions during the normal planting window (December to March) bareroot seedlings will survive and grow equally well versus container seedlings.
Planting containerized seedlings is not a substitute for good quality site preparation or genetic improvement. Landowners should not use containerized seedlings to skimp on site preparation thinking that containerized seedlings will compensate for poor or no site prep. For example, failing to bed on a wet site and planting containerized seedlings will likely not give as good of results as bedding and planting bareroot seedlings in terms of growth and survival because the limiting factor (excessive soil moisture and poor aeration of the roots) has not been addressed. Similarly, whether choosing bare root or container seedlings, the type of genetic improvement in the seed is more important in the long run.
4. What is the appropriately adapted seed source for my planting location
Not knowing the seed source of your seedlings can be devastating. Seedlings produced from seed with Florida parentage won’t survive or reach their full potential on a site in Virginia. Experienced seedling providers such as ArborGen can provide the correct geographic seed source and genetic performance data to landowners.
Loblolly Pine: Coastal, Piedmont, Northern, Texas Louisiana Arkansas Oklahoma
Additionally, Performance Rating System scores (PRS) from the North Carolina State University Tree Improvement Cooperative are available for trees that have been tested in its field trials. It is critical when deciding between different genetic choices that the checklots in NCSU PRS data are from the same geographic location or provenance. Learn about pine seedling success and suggested seedling types and genetic makeup for planting in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and other states. For example, if you want to compare two families for use in South Carolina, the appropriate checklot in the PRS scoring will be the South Carolina checklot. Your forestry seedling vendor or consultant should be able to readily provide you with the information to provide the correct comparisons. Demand data transparency in making your seedling selection.
5. What kind of customer support should I expect regarding my seedlings, before, during and after the sale?
Make sure the reforestation company you work with asks you about your goals for you and your family and helps you develop a plan to achieve those. They should communicate with you in a clear, transparent way the facts and data that support their claims.
Ask about their quality control and tracking systems to make sure they are delivering you the high quality seedlings you expect.
They should be able to deliver what you want, where you want it, when you want it. And your reforestation company should commit to being there for advice and support after planting until first thinning. You are in this for the long haul – they should be too.
Meet Michael Cunningham, Ph.D
Vice President, Global Product Development
Get to know Mike Cunningham and learn more about why genetics matter and learn some good questions to ask before you buy seedlings for your land.
Dr. Patrick Cumbie, manager of pine improvement for ArborGen won the Tony Squillace Award for the best presentation at the Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference last week in Louisville, KY. The Southern Forest Tree Improvement Committee (SFTIC) is the professional organization of tree improvement specialists throughout the southeastern United States. The Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference organized by SFTIC has met biannually for 56 years to exchange information and to discuss future needs.
The title of his presentation was Implementation of Genomic Prediction in Loblolly Pine.
He discussed applications of genomic selection that ArborGen has introduced into our pine genetics program.
Need a trusted partner to guide the way?
Get in touch with a Reforestation Advisor to explore your options!
Geoffrey Lee Hill
Georgia, Virginia, Eastern Tennessee
Paul Jeffreys, Ph.D.
Western Tennessee, Northern Alabama, and Mississippi
Gulf Coast, Southern Alabama
Senior Business Specialist, Texas
Eastern Texas, Southern Louisiana
Arkansas, Northern Louisiana