Down On The Farm: Four Useful Things Comes Out From A Pine Tree

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Colorado blue spruce trees have long been among the most popular conifers for landscaping in Michigan and the upper Midwest. Blue spruce trees are widely planted due to their good growth rate, stately form and, of course, their blue foliage. Unfortunately, blue spruce trees are subject to a wide range of insect and disease problems that can impact their growth and aesthetic appeal.

The prevalence of diseases on blue spruce trees has intensified in recent years and trees are declining rapidly in many areas Photo 1. The rapid decline of many spruce trees in Michigan and surrounding states appears to be related to an increase of canker diseases coupled with other disease and insect problems that plague the species.

There are three principle types of diseases that affect blue spruce trees: needlecasts, tip blights and canker diseases. All of these diseases are caused by fungal pathogens and each produce specific symptoms that can be useful in diagnosing the problem. As the name implies, trees with needlecast diseases shed needles.

As the disease progresses, the needles die, usually the year following the infection.

How To Identify And Control Problems With Pine Trees

Tip blights. Tip blights are fungal diseases that typically cause dieback to new, emerging shoots Photo 4. Tip blights are most common on pines, especially Austrian pines, but can also occur on spruces. Canker diseases. Canker diseases are caused by fungi that infect branches or the main stem of trees. Typical symptoms of cankers are sunken areas along a stem that may ooze resin Photo 5. Photos Left, Needlecasts kill older inner needles, but leave newer needles unaffected.

Middle, New shoot tips killed by Phomopsis tip blight. Right, Resin oozing from a branch canker caused by Cytospora. In both cases, the insect pests are tiny and you may need a hand lens to see them. Often times, people are more likely to see the damage as opposed to the insect pests themselves.

Gall adelgids. Adelgids are small insects that feed on shoots by sucking plant sap.

Radiata, prince of pines | New Zealand Geographic

As they do so, they cause the shoots to deform and produce galls that resemble cones Photo 6. Damage from gall adelgids is mainly aesthetic. Even if you burnt down native forest to clear the land. But that is raking over old wounds. The important outcome is that we have trees in the ground now. Eighty years after the Royal Commission filed its report, New Zealand is in the tree business to stay. It is used wherever wood is used, except for the most demanding items. Plus pulp and paper products too numerous to mention.

Too valuable to throw away, too valuable to burn. So, have the mills gone out of business? We used to sell framing that was virtually clear timber. There are other, simpler ways to add value. By taking the same old timber and packaging it up with a new brand name, they have added between 5 and 25 US dollars per cubic metre to its value in international markets.

What is sure is that if anyone can make more and better out of Pinus radiata, we can. As timbers, the conifers are all classed as softwoods, as opposed to the broadleaf trees—teak, oak, puriri, tawa, etc—which produce hardwood. It fights the saw, the nail and the chisel and if you drop a decent bit of it on your toes it really hurts. As a species, radiata possesses a high degree of genetic variability—a great advantage when breeding trees for specific purposes.

Harsh, salt-laden winds roar in from all directions, with no hills to deflect them. Beneath the stumps, sand provides very meagre rations. Drought is no good for it, either.


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Pin us radiate bears both sexes on the one tree, with female cones on the upper part of the tree and male pollen-producing parts on lower branches—to reduce the likelihood of the tree pollinating itself. Not until the spring of the year after that will the cone be ripe. That, at least, is how it goes in nature. Radiata pine is not a prolific seed producer.

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You need about 20 trees to get a kilogram of seeds. And this is the heart of the matter: propagating trees with the right properties for the end user. Foresters look for various traits in their trees. Now only per hectare are planted.

Wilding Pines

Growth and form are not the only attributes foresters are interested in. The problem is, there are just not enough GF28 seeds to satisfy the demand—indeed, down to GF16, stocks are in short supply. A planting boom over the last couple of years has exacerbated the situation. Forestry plantings collapsed and seed production facilities were scaled down. The advantage of this procedure which is not yet in full production is that many more individuals can be produced per clone than with organogenesis—a single Petri dish may contain 20, embryos.

Genetic engineering is also being explored as a method of imbuing pine trees with desirable attributes. If successful, the seedling will spread a net of secondary roots closer to the surface. Within a year, commercially grown seedlings are ready to plant out. This is a winter job, and it is done by hand. Times sixty million—the number of trees planted this year.

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If grown for clear wood, the trees will be pruned to a height of up to six metres, creating a fine, knot-free butt log. Pleasant they may be. Profitable they certainly are. But what about pine forests as a habitat? Now that that issue is laid to rest, Smith willingly acknowledges that there are some habitat benefits. Consequently, birds such as kaka, parakeets and pigeons are rarely found there.

Down On The Farm: Four Useful Things Comes Out From A Pine Tree

Some native birds positively thrive in pine forests. The densest population of kiwi ever recorded was in a radiata pine forest at Waitangi—a population tragically decimated by a single dog. Lots of them, and all more common in conifers than in native forest. This concept, known as agroforestry, was introduced as a way to get the maximum return from a given piece of land.

Trials which correlated timber yield against tree spacing indicated that stems per hectare gave good yields of clear wood, while still allowing plenty of light for grass growth. At that spacing, there was metres between each tree and the forest was almost parklike. Agroforestry is an appealing idea. As with most dreams, fleshing out the concept raised problems. While grass under trees looks green and lush, animals tend to despise it. In farming parlance, the grass has got no guts, and animals do poorly on it.

There are problems for the trees, too. Because of these difficulties, many foresters have gone back to denser tree plantings where branch size is suppressed and the burden of wind is shared.

Down on the Farm: Four Useful Things Comes Out from a Pine Tree (Paperback or So

A hectare of New Zealand exotic forest absorbs an average of seven tonnes of atmospheric carbon each year and turns it into timber. This is better than any native forest, including the Amazon rain forest. To the extent that the wood from the forest is bound up in long-term usage, this is a clear win for the environment, and if those wood products replace more energy-intensive concrete, metal and plastic, it also represents a huge energy saving. The wood is particularly well suited to treatment by chemicals, sucking them up like a sponge and binding them tightly to its cellular surfaces.

Next, timber destined for indoor use will usually be treated with boron, which protects against fungal and insect attack as long as the wood is dry.