Northwest Illinois Forestry AssociationWoodland owners sharing ideas on forest productivity

Artificial Regeneration

Sometimes foresters supplement natural regeneration. When there is an area within the forest that has undesirable canopy-sized trees, and no good crop of desirable saplings or seedlings in the understory, foresters use artificial regeneration. That is, they plant seedlings or seeds of desirable species - like oak, walnut, and shagbark hickory.

Obviously, this method takes more effort than natural regeneration. In both methods, the canopy-level trees must be eliminated to make room for the sunlight to reach the seedlings. However, in artificial regeneration the planting of seedlings is normally done by hand, with little mechanical help. Further, good forestry practice requires at least 300 seedlings per acre. There are differences in the results between the two methods. First, the native seedlings (natural regeneration) are well-established with a well-developed root system. They respond well to the sunlight. The introduced seedlings (artificial regeneration) must recover from the shock of being transplanted and develop their roots. Some think this "transplant shock" sets the seedlings back about two years.

Another option would be to plant seeds and nuts in place of seedlings. The advantage is that there is no "transplant shock" period. The disadvantages are three:

(1) squirrels may dig up the nuts;

(2) the emerging seedlings must compete for sunlight with even
the smallest of plants in the understory; and

(3) not all of the seeds will germinate - resulting in the wasted effort of planting those duds.

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