Controlling competing vegetation and brown spot disease are two of the main reasons prescribe burns are recommended for young longleaf plantations:
- Longleaf pine seedling do not compete well with vegetation, and will stay in the grass stage for years, if vegetation is not controlled by fire, mowing or herbicides. Using improved containerized seedlings, along with good vegetation management, can release longleaf pines from the grass stage in 2-3 years.
- Longleaf pines are the only species of southern pines susceptible to brown spot needle blight. Seedlings are infected in the grass stage and can die from the disease. Prescribe burning is an effective method for controlling this fungal disease. Burning removes the infected needles and kills the spores. Brown spot can be identified by yellow bands on the needles, which eventually turn brown as shown in the photo above.
December through March is the typical burn window for this activity. Older longleaf pine stands can be burned later in the spring, with the right weather conditions and understory. If turkey management is important to you, wait until nesting season is over to burn mature longleaf stands. Spring burns provide better understory control of brush and hardwoods. (Make sure you get a burn permit from the local state forestry service, before you light your fire.)
This video is an example of a controlled burn in a 5 year old longleaf pine stand that is in the sapling stage. Good forest management practices have gotten these pines off to a good start. The key is not to damage the bud in the tip of pines, or the newly formed candles in the spring.