CLEMSON, S.C. — Forest management practices, such as thinnings, are recommended to meet landowner management objectives, including generating income, improving habitat for wildlife species, and, most importantly, maintaining a healthy and productive forest. Properly timed thinnings in pine stands will provide all these benefits. Thinnings are forest management activities that are carried out to reduce stand density and improve growth of the stand.1 The objective of is to favor the healthiest and best-formed dominant trees in the stand by removing suppressed, forked, crooked, and diseased trees. This allows residual trees to take advantage of additional available site resources (water, light, and soil nutrients), potentially increasing their growth rate and value when harvested. Properly timed thinnings throughout the rotation can more than double the diameter of trees at the final harvest compared to an unthinned stand.1 This article informs forest landowners and land managers why pine tree physiology determines the spacing and number of seedlings needed for successful pine stand establishment, how a thinning schedule is selected, different methods, and the benefits of thinning to the residual stand.
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–Patrick Hiesl and Janet Steele, Clemson Extension Land Grant Press