Fire and fertilizer as alternatives to hand thinning in a natural stand of precommercial-sized loblolly pine
A winter backing fire thinned a natural 4-yr-old lob/oily pine (Pinus taeda L) stand from below but reduced stem density less than did hand thinning. Application of nitrogen fertilizer did not accelerate natural thinning over the 4 yr test period. Burning and fertilizing increased dbh growth of crop trees, but gains were less than those produced by hand thinning. Height growth of crop trees was increased by fertilization but may have been reduced by burning. A case study showed that economic returns from prescribed burning were comparable to those from hand thinning/or a 30-yr rotation. However, additional research is needed to produce prescription guidelines that minimize the risks of burning young stands before the practice can be recommended.