Planting genetically superior pine seedlings along with sound silvicultural treatments could enhance the value of a landowner’s future trees by as much as 100 percent compared to the more common open pollinated trees, says Mississippi State University Associate Extension/Research Professor Randall Rousseau.

For more than 15 years, forestry ranked No. 2 in the Mississippi’s agriculture, behind poultry/eggs, before being pushed into third place in 2012 by soybeans. Even so, the 2012 value of the state’s forest products is estimated at $1.03 billion, up from $957 million the previous year. Processing harvested timber into products, such as lumber, paper, and wood furniture, resulted in an economic impact to the state of more than $10 billion in sales and contributed to more than 63,000 jobs.

Many of the state’s row crop farmers also have timber acreage that is predominantly pines.

In the southern U.S., more than 30 million acres of loblolly pine plantations have been planted, Rousseau, who is also a forest geneticist at the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center, said at the annual meeting of the Oktibbeha County Forest Farmers Association at Crawford, Miss.

 “The vast majority of those acres have been planted with genetically improved stock,” he said. “Some of the most sophisticated pine programs in the world are located in the southeastern U.S., and improved seed, seedlings, and trees have proven their worth for nearly 40 years.”

In the past 60 years, he said, pine tree improvement “has moved from obscurity to the forefront of industrial programs,” and today more than 1 billion loblolly pine seedlings are planted each year — almost all the product of a tree improvement program.

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“Genetically superior seedlings increase timber value because of their faster growth rates, greater adaptability, increased disease resistance, improved wood properties, and superior form,” Rousseau says.