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The Ag Above Your Head

Florida’s Silviculture

Take some time to listen to music this morning while tending your garden or while reading this post. Guy Clark inspired today’s blog post – he is one of my favorite musicians. Although his song, “Homegrown Tomatoes” is a classic, he was also a luthier. A luthier is someone who builds and repairs stringed instruments, like a guitar. When speaking with any luthier, they will discuss the importance of selecting high-quality wood to craft specific sounds. Nonetheless, wood for luthiers is one of the 5000 possible uses for timber. Timber is the ag above your head.

In Florida, the timber industry is one of our largest agricultural commodities. In 2019, Florida’s total production equated to 514,739 million cubic feet. According to Florida Forestry Association, the industry contributes $25 billion to the state’s economy, annually. In comparison, in 2019, oranges contributed $867 million to the state’s economy. The majority of the timber produced in Florida is softwood, or 466,872 million cubic feet and the remaining is hardwood.

Timber Types

Softwoods and hardwoods are two major classifications of lumber. Gymnosperms, like pines and cedars, are softwoods. Whereas hardwoods are angiosperms, like oak or maples.

Softwoods grow much quicker than hardwoods, allowing for cheaper timber products. Florida silviculture relies heavily on pine production, which is one reason softwood comprises much of the state’s production. In 2019, 51% of the softwood production was dedicated to pulpwood, which is the wood used for wood fiber products like paper or fiberboard. For us gardeners, our gardens truly benefit from Florida’s lumber industry. Regarding the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program’s fourth principle, “Mulch”, pine bark or pine needles are great mulch choices.

Florida pine stand

Slash, longleaf, loblolly, and sand pine are among the most common timber species grown in Florida.

Our Landscapes and Florida’s Timber

Mulch help retains soil moisture, suppresses weed growth, helps provide aesthetic cohesion, but most importantly, can help improve and build healthy soil. There are many types of mulch types seen in landscapes, but the FFL program recommends the use of pine bark, pine straw, natural leaf litter, melaleuca, and eucalyptus mulch. Pine bark is the byproduct of the forestry industry and pine needles come from managed pine plantations. Melaleuca and eucalyptus mulch create a sustainable mulch source.

Mulch in a landscape

Mulch helps build soil, maintain soil moisture, and protect soil temperatures. Therefore, our best landscape mulches are byproducts of the timber industry and are readily available.

Our Environment and Sustainable Foresty

Florida produces lots of timber. The provisioning ecosystem service provided by trees is significant to Florida’s economy. Nonetheless, their regulating, cultural, and supporting ecosystem services serve critical roles in sustaining Florida’s quality ecosystems and landscapes. Without healthy stands of trees, there would be significant impacts on wildlife habitat, water quality, and soil protection (to name a few). Therefore, foresters follow best management practices to ensure sustainable pine production.

Even more so, many producers adhere to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standards, whose mission is to advance sustainability through forest-focused collaboration. When buying products, such as mulch, you can find the SFI logo on the products. The logo indicates you are purchasing sustainably sourced materials.

The Ag Above your Head

No matter who you are, you rely heavily on timber and the timber industry. Therefore, it does not matter if you are a gardener, carpenter, or luthier, Florida’s timber industry is an important agricultural commodity for all Floridians. Sustainable forest practices conserve Florida’s natural resources. Therefore, awareness of sustainable forest practices allows us to wisely purchase timber-related products. So as you go about your week, listen to Guy Clark, mulch your landscape with sustainable materials, and respect the ag above your head.

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