Managing Woodlots for Mast

Managing Woodlots for Mast

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By managing your woodlot to increase mast production, you can improve habitat for whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and many other types of mammals, insects, and birds, open up additional income opportunities from sale of fruits, nuts, or other alternative crops, and enjoy fresh, healthy, and delicious food for your family.

Here are some tips on how you can manage your woodlot for mast production:

Plant a diversity of species.

Different tree species produce mast on different schedules. For example, White Oak (Quercus alba), one of the most important autumn mast species in much of the country, produces acorns every year, while Red Oak (Quercus rubra), an important late winter food sources for many species, produces acorns only every two years.

Including a variety of different mast-producing species increases the chances of a steady supply of mast throughout the year, every year. In most parts of the country, wildlife managers recommend that a woodlot managed for mast production should include about 50% native oaks of several different species, and about 50% other mast producing trees and shrubs, for a minimum of 10 different species.

Maintain an open canopy.

Pole stands with tight canopies of similarly aged overstory trees are the poorest mast producers.

A stand managed for mast production should have about 48% sawtimber size (12 inches dbh or greater) trees, preferably larger. (Many oaks don’t start producing maximum yields of acorns until they have reaches 20 inches or more.)

The remaining trees should be a mix of ages and sizes, allowing sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor to encourage diverse understory growth and ensure space for overstory trees to develop large canopy sizes relative to their dbh. Studies have found that in many species, canopy size is a better predictor of the amount of mast produced than age or height. Additionally, the more of the crown surface that is exposed to sunlight, the more mast the tree will tend to produce.

Thin trees as necessary to encourage the development of an uneven-aged, multi-species forest with an open canopy and a healthy understory.

For more information about managing woodlots for mast production, visit the Library.

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