Forestry Herbicide Application

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Ferns can be pretty but are of little use to wildlife

Invasive Fern Growth


Chilcote forestry consulting is a licensed forestry herbicide applicator in the states of New York and Pennsylvania.

When we do timber stand regeneration work, it is often necessary to apply herbicides to undesirable vegetation before harvesting can begin, creating a situation where desirable species can get established.

Both native and non-native plants can become invasive and choke out other plants by using up all the growing space, sunlight and moisture available.  Very shade tolerant plants like ferns, striped maple and beech are the usual targets for herbicide applications.

These species tend to establish themselves in the understory and become thick after selective harvesting.  When a regeneration harvest takes place, the extra sun and space can cause these species to take over the site.  Not being any good for timber or wildlife, they are considered invasive and must be knocked back to allow desirable species to establish themselves. 

The reason beech tree become so thick is an accident of nature.  Beech has a strong tendency to sprout from its roots when stressed.  Due to the foreign – introduced beech blight, they are always stressed and therefore always sending up root succors. 

The reason ferns and striped maple become thick is because they are very shade tolerant and prolific.  They spread like crazy and grow fast, shading out the forest floor.

Herbicides are applied either on the foliage of unwanted plants, on the stems or on the cut stump, depending on the circumstances.  They can be applied with backpacks, mist blowers, tractor mounted blowers or skidder mounted sprayers.  They are either broadcast or selectively applied.

A mist of glyphosate and water is usually the correct prescription for areas of heavy, low growth with very little desirable growth.  The idea is to reset the site so that everything has an even chance of survival.  We do this before the overstory harvest so that the forest floor will seed in and a mixture of plants will grow.  Or, we can plant shrubs and trees that are not in the area to provide seed.

Basal Sprayed Beech

Where growth is too tall to reach the canopy with mist blowers, we use basal stem treatments.  Application of mineral oil and triclopyr to the base of trees will usually kill or put a hurt on them.  This technique is selective and we can work around desirable trees that are there or leave some of the target species if we want to.

Trees over six inches in diameter are usually cut and the stumps treated to prevent new growth from sprouting.  This is more labor intensive but very effective.  Downed trees can be good cover for wildlife.

About the Author:

Wildlife habitat manager and consulting forester from Central PA. Studied environmental Agriculture specializing in wildlife management and Forestry. B.S. Agriculture, Masters degree in Forestry. 30 years experience in land investment, forestry and wildlife habitat improvement. Currently working as a Farm Bill Forester for Pheasants Forever on Game Commission and Golden Winged Warbler Initiative.