There's money (and bugs) in them thar white pine cones!

Starting in late August or September, there will be a major effort by the State Land and Forest Nursery Programs to collect white pine cones to build seed supplies for the state's white pine initiative. DNR Forestry offices, cooperators and private vendors will be out to collect cones from a variety of parent stands and locations. Due to the early warm spring, cones may be ripe early. Be forewarned also, that natural agents are already harvesting this years abundant cone crop! Where there is stored energy, there are hungry mouths waiting to feed.

Just because a cone crop looked good early, doesn't mean it will still yield high rates of viable seed once it reaches the extractor. Early cone drop is occurring due to the activity of cone beetles, cone moths and midges.

So what is a white pine restoration disciple to do? Keep checking potential cone harvest sites. Note high levels of early cone aborts. Keep records of cone size increase and maturation. If you think its ripening, take some samples, cut them open and check the fullness of the seed, the darkening of the seed coat and the number destroyed by insect pests. Once harvest begins, make sure to conduct cone cut tests to document the percent of full seed and reduce payments or adjust volumes accordingly. When all else fails or you just want another informed opinion, call Rick Klevorn at General Andrews or Craig Van Sickle at Badoura for help in assessing maturity and pest loss.

Processing vast amounts of sticky white pine cones at Badoura is fun enough in itself without including cones with little viable seed. There's good seed out there to be had, so let's keep our eyes open, to get good cones into the processing system this fall!

High-low water table maladies

During the period from winter snow melt (which was very little) to the first part of June we were pondering the outcome of drought stresses on landscape trees and just how severe the effect would be. Now in mid-July we are wondering what the outcome of summer flooding might be, especially in western counties of Region I where farmers are towing canoes and boats behind their farm equipment so they can get home from the fields.

Coupling the early drought stress with growing season root suffocation, the high-low water-table maladies may generate significant tree mortality in the next few years. Many trees can tolerate high water tables but these are not the same tree species people favor as yard trees. When meeting with homeowners, wearing knee-high rubber boots, you mention early drought stresses and you occasionally get the dumbfounded gaze over the top of the bifocals as if the thought is "Oh really" when was that? Trees, especially large ones, do not respond to fluctuating water levels like alfalfa and Swiss chard. Tree responses are more subtle and incremental. One has to be more cognizant of past events, maybe over the past ten years or so. Trees experiencing midsummer flooding are vulnerable to trunk canker diseases and stem borers and bark beetles.