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Spruce budworm and white spruce: Moving towards an answer

How should white spruce plantations be managed?  What are the thinning recommendations?  Does white spruce older than 30 years respond to thinning?  Would thinned white spruce be more or less susceptible or vulnerable to spruce budworm?  Should white spruce be grown in pure monoculture plantations?  Should you thin during a spruce budworm outbreak?

Lots of questions with few answers.  While there are over 100,000 acres of white spruce plantations in Minnesota alone, a managers handbook does not exist.  Spruce budworm on balsam fir has been researched extensively, however budworm on white spruce in the Lake States has received much less attention.

To answer some of the questions, Mike Albers MN-DNR and Steve Katovich USFS-S&PF developed a Focus Fund proposal titled ?Developing Guidelines for Managing White Spruce Plantations Threatened by Spruce Budworm?.  It successfully competed for Federal Assistance with proposals from 20 northeastern states and was awarded $35,000.

Dr Klaus Puettman, Dept of Forestry, University of Minnesota agreed to be the project coordinator. Mike Saunders is a research associate working on the project.   Cooperators include MN-DNR, USFS-S&PF, USFS-NCFES and Blandin Paper Company.

Plantations are currently being selected for the study.  The plan calls for thinning 6 to 8 plantations yet this summer.  Additional plantations will be thinned next year.  Some of the plantations will have a continuing history of spruce budworm defoliation and others will not. Permanent plots will be established in these plantations to monitor the long term impact.

The goals of the project include developing management guidelines for established white spruce plantations.  Interim recommendations are to be developed within one year.  These will be refined as new information is derived from the study.  The study will also determine if thinning conducted during an ongoing budworm outbreak is beneficial in reducing growth loss, top-kill or mortality.  Publications, workshops, and training materials aimed at forest managers and private woodlot owners will be developed.  Stay tuned for further developments.