Northwest Illinois Forestry AssociationWoodland owners sharing ideas on forest productivity

Crop Trees

Sometimes forest landowners will favor certain trees over others within their forestland because of their management goals, such as timber quality, wildlife habitat, esthetics, or nut production.

Those favored trees, called "Crop Trees", are given more room to grow. Neighboring trees, that are crowding the Crop Trees, are killed (but left standing). This is termed "releasing the Crop Tree from competition"; each Crop Tree will receive more sunlight, more water, and more soil nutrients; it will respond by growing faster and producing more seeds.  In managing a stand for Crop Trees, each small group of trees was judged according to the management goals:

- Which tree has more valuable wood?
- Which tree is growing straighter with fewer side branches?
- Which tree produces more nuts and seeds?
- Which tree produces seeds that are enjoyed by   wildlife?
- Which tree has already reached the canopy for    sunlight?
- Which tree produces seed that store well over winter?
- Which tree is growing more vigorously than others?

These decisions are not easy; but they are made knowing that the Crop Trees will be healthier, grow more wood, produce more food for wildlife, etc. The killed trees are left to decompose and contribute to the forest nutrients. In some cases, these trees are used by wildlife for shelter, as a Snag Tree.

In most cases, the released Crop Trees will respond dramatically. In one 54-year old forest stand, released trees grew 4 inches in diameter over ten years while those that were crowded grew only 1.8 inches. It has also been shown in many studies that released trees generate more seed because the food, water, and sunlight is available to produce them.

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