Hand Planting Versus Machine Planting of Bottomland Red Oaks on Former Agricultural Fields in Louisiana's Mississippi Alluvial Plain: Sixth-Year Results
Interest in restoring bottomland hardwoods on abandoned agricultural fields has gained considerably over the past 15 years, due primarily to federal cost-share programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program. While a variety of artificial regeneration techniques are available to afforest these lands, none have met with consistently successful results, especially in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Therefore, a study was initiated to compare a variety of regeneration techniques for afforesting previously farmed bottomland hardwood sites. In this paper we report the results from hand planted versus machine planted 1-0 bare-root bottomland red oak seedlings. Four sites in the MAP in Louisiana were planted with either 1 or 2 species in a randomized complete block design. Sites and species planted included Bayou Macon Wildlife Management Area [WMA; Nuttall oak (Quercus nuttallii Palmer) and willow oak (Q. phellos L.)], Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge (NWR; Nuttall oak), Ouachita WMA (willow oak), and the Tensas NWR [Nuttall oak and water oak (Q. nigra L.)]. Results after 6 growing seasons indicated little difference in density, survival, planting success, and stocking between planting methods. Densities ranged from 280 Nuttall oak seedlings per acre machine planted at the Tensas NWR to 67 willow oak seedlings per acre machine planted at the Bayou Macon WMA. Nuttall oak also tended to have higher survival (81 percent) compared to willow oak (56 percent) and water oak (38 percent). When volunteer oak and ash were included, all site-species-planting method combinations met the minimum criteria for successful afforestation, but all combinations failed to meet minimum stocking levels necessary for quality sawtimber production.