Direct seeding southern pines: history and status of a technique developed for restoring cutover forests
Early in the 20th century the deforestation resulting from the “golden-age of lumbering” left millions of acres of forest land in the need for reforestation. The challenge was so extreme that foresters of the early 1930s estimated that it would take 900 to 1,000 years at the then rate of planting to reforest the denuded forest land that occurred throughout the Nation. Forests of the West Gulf region were especially decimated due to the development and use of steam-powered logging equipment that left little capability for natural regeneration. Faced with this need, scientists of the Southern Forest Experiment Station began an effort to develop direct seeding with the hope of quickly seeding large open areas of the South with southern pines. Protecting seeds from bird and rodent predation was key to successful direct seeding, and in the mid-1950s certain chemicals were found that made seeding an effective tool. Additional components of a successful direct seeding operation were increasing the availability of quality pine seeds, finding methods of eliminating hardwood brush competition, and developing site preparation treatments that favored seeding. This supporting research was essential for the resulting successful restoration of millions of acres of southern pine forests. Today, direct seeding is infrequently used, primarily due to lack of large, open areas needing reforestation. But back then, seeding met a significant need, and millions of acres of forest land were put back into production.