Afforestation of marginal agricultural land in the lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley, U.S.A.
Afforestation of marginal agricultural land in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV) relies on native species, planted mostly in single-species plantations. Hard mast species such as oak and pecan are favored for their value to wildlife, especially on public land. Successful afforestation requires an understanding of site variation within floodplains and matching species preferences and tolerances to site characteristics, in particular to inundation regimes. Soil physical conditions, root aeration, nutrient availability, and moisture availability during the growing season also must be considered in matching species to site. Afforestation methods include planting seedlings or cuttings, and direct-seeding. Both methods can be done by hand or by machine. If good quality seedlings are planted properly and well cared for before planting, the chances for successful establishment are high but complete failures do occur. Mortality and poor growth are caused by many factors: extended post-planting drought or flooding; poor planting or seeding practices; poor quality seed or seedlings; animal depredation; or herbicide drift from aerial application to nearby cropland. More species can be planted, even on continuously flooded sites. Direct-seeding, while limited to heavy-seeded species (oaks and hickories), costs less than 50 percent of planting seedlings. Growth varies considerably by soil type; most bottomland hardwoods grow best on silt loam and less well on clay soils. Up to 200 000 ha of land in the LMAV subject to spring and early summer backwater flooding could be afforested over the next decade.