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    Data derived from empirical studies, coupled with modeling and simulation techniques, were used to compare tree and product quality from two stands of small-diameter ponderosa pine trees growing in northern California: one plantation, the other natural. The plantation had no management following establishment, and the natural stand had no active management. Fifty trees of similar diameter classes were selected from each site, measured, bucked into logs, and sawn into boards, and the boards were scanned for defects. Trees from the plantation stand demonstrated less variability in tree height, crown length, and age structure. The plantation trees were on average 4 years younger than their natural cohorts, yet for all but the smallest diameter there were no significant differences between mean tree height or crown length. Predicted merchantable volumes differed significantly for the longest diameter class. Merchantable volume was estimated to be 5% greater for the plantation trees than for the natural stand trees. More logs were bucked from the plantation stands, resulting in greater lumber production and greater value overall. Built logs from the plantation stand had an average of 9 whorls per log, whereas natural butt logs averaged 10 whorls per log. The most numerous defects, outnumbering knots and wane, were needle traces. These occupied some 31 % of natural board surface area, in comparison with 19% for plantation boards. Given the shorter time frame required to grow plantation trees, the greater merchantable volumes, and more consumer-acceptable defects, plantation stands, even with a minimal level of management, offer greater product potential than natural stands.

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    Lowell, Eini C.; Todoroki, Christine L.; Thomas, Ed. 2009. Comparing timber and lumber from plantation and natural stands of ponderosa pine. Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 24(3): 137-143.


    ponderosa pine, plantation, AUTOSAW, lumber quality

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