Texas timberland managers hold replanting decisions until hardwood trees leaf out in spring and more data becomes available on 2011 drought and tree mortality

LOS ANGELES , February 6, 2012 () – The 2011 drought in Texas hit the state's decades-old timberland plantations hard, according to the Texas Forestry Service (TFS), adding that it will not know what species were most affected until hardwood trees leaf out in the spring, Country World News reported Feb. 6.

Timberland managers will consider those numbers when deciding whether to replant this year or to wait for more favorable weather. Many Texas landowners prefer to plant in the fall, as spring-planted trees can lack time to establish themselves before summer heat.

The most recent TFS estimates of drought-killed forestland trees ranged from 100 million to 500 million, said Burl Caraway, head of the TFS department for sustainable forestry, adding that the agency is still waiting for more accurate numbers, reported Country World.

Drought mortality of trees is “spotty,” with a stand of dead trees beside a patch of live ones, said Caraway, adding that types and numbers of killed trees varies within a county.

In one area of East Texas northwest of Houston, pine trees were deeply affected, but dead pines turn red and become easy to spot, Country World News reported.

In Bastrop and Caldwell Counties, experts reported severe losses of cedar and post oak.

According to Caraway, in one multi-county area in West Texas, including Sonora through parts of Pecos County, as far as drivers can look down the interstate they can see dead ash junipers, Country World News reported.

The TFS asked forestry experts in December 2011 to make visual observations to help form closer estimates of tree loss from last year's drought. It is too early to give more exact information, said Caraway.

He advised any timberland owners planning to replant this season to investigate their options fully, including consulting a professional forester on site preparation, soil assessment and weed control to reduce competition for moisture, vital for pine seedlings, Country World News reported.

Individuals own about 64% of the state's forestland, according to the TFS.

The primary source of this article is Country World News, Sulphur Springs, Texas, on Feb. 6, 2012.

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