In all planted stands or plantations, there comes a time when you must thin out the diseased, defective and slow growing trees in order to open the stand up so the faster growing trees can continue to produce at their highest potential.  In conventional plantations this usually happens at age 13 to 15 years.  When thinning, if you leave the trees that exhibit the best characteristics for timber production in the stand, then you get very good results.  If not, your plantation may be ruined forever.

                                                                 AREA 1 - THINNED                                          AREA 2 - UNTHINNED

Number of Trees Per Acre                                     170                                                                        345

Growth Rate Per Year                                            14%                                                                        9%

Volume Per Acre                                   9.0 Cords of Pulpwood                                           25.0 Cords of Pulpwood
                                                              2.3 MBF Chip-n-saw                                                 2.0 MBF Chip-n-saw

Value Per Acre (standing timber)         9.0 Cords @ $20/Cord = $180.00                         25.0 Cords @ $20/Cord = $500.00
                                                             2.3 MBF @ $200/MBF = $460.00                           2.0 MBF @ $200/MBF  = $400.00

STANDING TIMBER  VALUE TODAY              $640.00/ACRE                                                    $900.00/ACRE

When we thinned Dr. M's plantation in Madison County, Mississippi in 2004, the cutter missed a 10 acre patch in the middle of his 400 acres of loblolly pine plantation.  We asked Dr. M  if it would be all right to use the missed patch in a study of thinned vs. unthinned plantations and he said it would be fine.  Below you will find the comparison of these two areas of planted trees that were planted with the same seedlings by the same planting crew on the same day.  The only difference is one area was thinned in 2004 and the other area was not.

Standing Timber Value    =            $  640.00
Value of 1st thinning        =            $  455.00
Total Value of thinned stand =      $1,095.00
                                                          -$900.00 = $195.00/Acre increase in value for the thinned stand.

Now we get to the good part where we see what the thinned area is producing in growth per acre per year as opposed to the unthinned area.

These results were obtained from a professional thinning operation where the crop trees or leave trees, were marked by a professional forester to be sure that the largest and best trees in the stand were left to grow.  If your plantation isn't handled this way, then your results may not be as good.  A tree length truck load of 10" DBH trees will weigh approximately 45% more than a load of 6" DBH trees and pulp mills pay by the ton delivered to their mill.  A logger has to cut, skid, de-limb and load over 200 six inch DBH trees to make a load but only twenty-eight 10"DBH trees to make that same size load.  You can see why it is so much better to have someone looking out for you to pick the trees to be cut out of your plantation.

                                                                            Thinned Area                    Unthinned Area

Per Acre Value Today:                                          $1,095.00                                           $900.00

Value Produced Each Year:                                  $126.00/Acre                                  $ 81.00/Acre

At this point it appears that the thinned stand is not as valuable as the unthinned stand; however, we have not considered the value of the thinning operation five years before.  That thinning operation brought the landowner $310.00 per acre plus the interest on that money @ 8% per year would bring the value of the thinning to $455.00 per acre.


                                             Thinned Area                                                                            Unthinned Area

Standing Timber        $640/Acre @ 14% = $89.60                                 Standing Timber          $900/Acre @ 9% = $81.00
1st Thinning               $455/Acre @ 8% = $36.40                                   No Thinning                                               =     -0-

                   Total Production Per Year  =  $126.00/Acre                                    Total Production Per Year  =   $81.00/ Acre

On 400 acres of pine plantation thinning production was $18,000.00 MORE return per year.

There's still more benefit from thinning your plantation correctly.  When we measured our sample of the thinned timber we found that everyone of the pulpwood size trees measured above 8.5" DBH (Diameter at 4.5' from the ground).  In order for a pine tree to be considered large enough for Chip'n'saw, it must measure 9.0 DBH.  At their present rate of growth all of the pulpwood trees in the thinned area will become chip'n'saw size over the next two growing seasons.  This means that not only will the pulpwood size trees in the thinned stand increase in volume by 14% a year (due to their growth), but they will increase in value from $20/Cord to $77/Cord as well.  Taking this into consideration, we calculate that the value of the standing thinned timber will increase from $640.00 per acre to $1,500.00 per acre over the next two years. That's a whopping 134% increase in value over the next two years or 67% per year.  If you add in the value of the thinning five years ago, you come up with a value of $2,030.00 per acre just two years from now.

(Unit price for Chip'n'saw of $200/MBF is based on a good timber market not our present situation.)