News Release: Chipping trees good for forest in Black Hills

Rapid City, SD – Thinning ponderosa pine trees by chipping and mulching the trees in place is good for our Black Hills forests.

The International Society of Aboriculture (ISA), the people who take care of trees, recommends chipping trees to a depth of 2-4 inches across the landscape where chippers can be used.

“Chipping makes a lot more sense than cutting and chunking in the current pine beetle infestation,” said Frank Carroll, a forestry consultant in Custer, SD.

Chipping dead pine trees not only gets rid of the fire and fuels hazard but also kills the pine beetles if the trees are chipped in time, Carroll said. Cutting and chunking leaves the heavy fuel on the forest floor to feed summer wildfires, he said. Chipping get rid of the fire problem and stops the beetles.

Foresters across the Black Hills are racing to cut the more than 5 million newly dead pine trees before the next mountain pine beetle attacks expected in the summer of 2013.

Carroll said the most important thing homeowners can do is thin their forests and spray the trees they want to save. Foresters thin forests by cutting the trees down and cutting and chipping the trees, cutting and chunking, piling for burning, hauling to lumber mills, or simply cutting the trees down to dry.

“There are lots of ways to get this work done but the work has to get done,” Carroll said. “If people don’t do the work, the beetles and fires will,” he said. People usually don’t like the random choices nature makes, Carroll said.

The ISA says mulching is one of the most beneficial things a home owner can do for the health of a tree. Mulch can reduce water loss from the soil, minimize weed competition, and improve soil structure.

Chipping and mulching trees:

  • Helps maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and mulching saves water.
  • Helps control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of chips will reduce the germination and growth of weeds.
  • Mulch serves as nature’s insulating blanket. Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
  • Many types of mulch can improve soil aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time.
  • Mulches can improve soil fertility.
  • A layer of mulch can inhibit certain plant diseases.
  • Composted wood chips can make good mulch, especially when they contain a blend of leaves, bark, and wood as occurs in the open forest. Fresh wood chips also may be used around established trees and shrubs like the forest of pines left after thinning.
  • For well-drained sites including the Black Hills National Forest, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch. If there are drainage problems, a thinner layer should be used. Avoid placing mulch against the tree trunks. Place mulch out to the tree’s drip line or beyond. Big chippers used in thinning spread the chips far and wide across the forest floor.
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