The Arkansas Center for Forest Business recently took two field trips to the ArborGen Nursery in Bluff City, Arkansas. The first trip focused on the various loblolly pine varieties that can be grown. Reforestation Advisor Greg Hay explained the seedling breeding system that combines genetics and silviculture practices to produce market-ready trees. Hay showed employees different plots demonstrating open-pollinated, mass control pollinated, and varietals. He explained that the top-performing plants are planted at around 500 trees per acre and detailed the thinning process necessary to produce premium yields.
Day two focused on the seedlings grown at the Bluff City nursery, with production coordinator Chase Weatherly explaining the process from soil preparation to cutting seedlings, packaging, and shipping. He provided a history of the Pine Bluff Nursery, explained the different seasons of the facility, and walked ACFB employees through the packaging system.
Weatherly highlighted the value of log straightness and reduced forking, which produced 60 to 80 percent more saw timber during the final harvest and resulted in higher revenues for landowners. Using genetically grown seedlings leads to quicker tree growth, allowing for a faster thinning turnaround. This process also minimizes diseased, forked, and crooked trees, resulting in more saw timber and less pulpwood, meaning higher returns for the landowners.
ArborGen does offer tours and can be reached at 888-888-7158, while the Arkansas Center for Forest Business can be contacted at 870-460-1052 on the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus.