How many pine trees to plant per acre


How Many Tons of Wood are on an Acre of Land?

“How many tons of wood are there on an acre of land?” Irrespective of location, it’s one of the most common questions foresters hear on an almost-daily basis, and it’s also one that’s difficult to properly define, as there is simply no absolute answer. Regardless of who’s asking, my go-to answer to this question as a consulting forester has always been, “It varies considerably.”

Consumers of wood raw materials want to know the answer to this question so they can maximize efficiencies and seek out the most affordable resources, and timberland owners want to know so they can get a general estimate of how much their timber is worth. Like all resources, the law of supply and demand drives the volume and value of timber.  

At a very high level, an acre of timber is an acre of timber. But regional differences in species mix, growth rates, terrain and a host of other factors oftentimes mean there is a considerable disparity in the volume, and therefore the value, of wood on an acre of land. For instance, we recently published a blog post that analyzes the difference in chip and pulpwood price trends between the US South and the Pacific Northwest.

But in the US South specifically, the factor that has the single largest impact on the volume of wood per acre is the predominant species of trees on the land: pine vs. hardwood.

When cruising a stand of timber, the volume of natural hardwood can be the toughest factor to determine due to large variations in the number of trees per acre, the tremendous inconsistency in tree sizes and the variance in quality based on the species. Even mixed stands of timber (both pine and hardwood) can have large variations due to the size of the trees, the density of trees, and the percentage of the area that is covered by pine vs. hardwood.        

Landowners in the US South that actively manage the timber on their properties typically manage for the growth of pine—usually the slash and loblolly varieties. While this minimizes diversity and significantly improves the ability to accurately determine stand volume, there is still plenty of variation due to a few important factors:

  • Forest Type: A plantation-style managed property has more fixed density across the stand, depending on the desired spacing; a natural-style property is regenerated without actively planting trees, which
    oftentimes leads to a much higher density of trees and more variable spacing across the stand.
  • Soil Quality: Lower-quality soils generally result in slower tree growth, smaller tree size and lower tree quality.
  • Management Regimes: Tree spacing will contribute to individual tree growth and timber quality over the life of the stand. Density can be controlled on a plantation-style stand, as the trees are planted in rows to improve access for timberland managers, and the rows result in higher tree density: 7’ x 10’ rows (trees planted every 7’ in rows that are spaced every 10’) = roughly 620 trees per acre, and 10’ x 10’ = roughly 435 trees per acre.
  • Silvicultural Applications: Mechanical or chemical site preparation, chemical release spray, prescribed burns, weed and pest control management can all result in improved survival rates and faster growth for planted pine seedlings.
  • Type of Harvest: Thinning vs. clearcut: thinnings remove only a portion of the stand’s smaller trees to make more room for the other trees to grow larger, and clearcuts remove all of the trees on the stand. A pre-commercial thinning on a natural timber stand will result in greater variance in the number of trees per acre at the time of a second (commercial) thinning. Also, the total number of thinnings, volume harvested during each thinning, and the timing of each thinning in the total growth cycle will affect the overall volume on the stand.

When combining all of the above factors, it is evident that many influences contribute to the overall volume of wood on any given stand of timber in the US South.

 

What Does the Data Say?

It’s important to note that the sizes of the trees removed during thinnings and clearcuts are quite different. In general, the size of pine logs fall into the following categories: trees that are 5”-7” diameter at breast height (DBH) are considered “pulpwood;” logs that are 8”-11” are considered “chip-n-saw;” logs that are 12”+ in diameter are considered “sawtimber.” As logs get larger, the per-ton value of the trees increases; sawtimber that has a DBH of 18" is more valuable than 12" sawtimber, for instance.

 

Harvest Type

Forest2Market’s transaction-based data from actual timber sales throughout the US South over the last year (7/17 - 6/18) helps us answer the larger question. Clearcut harvests will remove trees in all three categories noted above, whereas thinnings will remove only pulpwood and smaller logs that fall into the chip-n-saw category. Detailed data by harvest type, predominately from pine stands, demonstrate that:

  • Clearcut harvests generate roughly 80-105 tons of timber per acre
    • Average clearcut tons per acre: 87
  • Thinning harvests generate between 25-40 tons of timber per acre
    • Average thinning tons per acre: 32

 

 

Timberland Type

Timberland type also plays a significant role in the total tons per acre at harvest. Plantations typically maintain a higher volume per acre because they are harvested before growth begins to slow down drastically (35+ years old). On stands that are thinned and harvested at a younger age, there is less mortality because they experience less hardwood competition due to silvicultural prescriptions. Forest2Market data from timberland type demonstrate that:

  • Average volume of natural pine clearcut: 86 tons per acre
  • Average volume of plantation pine clearcut: 99 tons per acre

The following chart specifies the volume trend for both natural and plantation pine.

 

 

A trained forester is essential to help determine an accurate amount of wood on an acre of timberland. In the follow-up installment to this blog post, I will dig deeper into this common question and analyze actual timber prices in conjunction with tons of wood per acre. Combining Forest2Market’s direct market pricing data and harvest volume information will help to illustrate the real value of an acre of timber.

HOW MANY TREES CAN YOU PLANT PER ACRE?

If you own some land it can be a good idea to start a small plantation or grow trees as a hobby. There can be multiple reasons from pleasing your eye, saving the environment, or making some money. Before you begin, you need to have some idea about what sort of output or coverage you can expect. I have come across a lot of people who have wrong ideas about how many trees they can grow on a particular piece of land. The output also depends on a lot of factors and can be controlled to some extent. Let’s take a look.

On average you can expect to plant anywhere from 300-800 trees per acre. Now, this number can be increased or decreased depending on conditions being provided in the area. Some of these include access to water, nutrients, sunlight, and species you are planting.

Table of Contents

HOW MANY TREES CAN YOU PLANT ON AN ACRE OF LAND?

The truth here is that the answer depends on a lot of factors. It depends on the type of soil you have, the amount of rainfall or water you have access to. And the most important factor is the output you want. Are you looking for a forest cover or efficient output to grow trees for selling?

Let’s address the first factor, the type of soil. If you have dry soil with less nutrient density then you will have to give more spacing between the trees and the rows. In this case, you will also have to take out any other vegetation left on the land. This is because of the competition to the tree for access to nutrients and water. This tip goes for both achieving a forest cover and optimum output.

If you live in a relatively dry region, you will have to space out the trees a little bit more than you would normally have. You have to think of it this way: There is a limited amount of resources available on a given land, trees have to compete within that quantity of resources. This is why you have to ensure that each tree has enough access to each of the resources.

The next factor is the species you are using. If you are going to plant fast-growing species with slow-growing ones, the result is not going to be nice. The former will grow a lot while stealing all the food and nutrients from the slow-growing ones. So, the number of trees sown in this arrangement will have to be lower.

Recommended reading:

  • How long does it take for a tree to grow
  • Why trees grow faster in the summer

PLANTING ARRANGEMENT?

Usually, people prefer to plant the trees in rows. There is the benefit of having a movement area for the planter during watering and pruning. This also gives off that neatly arranged look. You can also go for a more natural look by planting the trees in an arbitrary manner.

The usual distance between rows while planting is about 8 feet, which equates to 2.4m.  the distance between the trees themselves depends on the output and the species you are planting.

For example, for forests, you will have to give more spacing. Sugar maple needs a distance of about 30 feet (10m ) between them for a healthy output. Balsam Fir, on the other hand, is a type of Christmas tree only needs a distance of about 6 feet (1. 8m).

The same system also applies to conifer trees as well. A distance of 8 feet (2.4m) between the rows and 6 feet or 1.8m between the trees themselves. With these numbers in mind, you can plant about 900 trees per acre in ideal conditions.

Hardwoods on the other hand only need a distance of 5.5 feet (1.5m) between them. But the gap between the rows needs to be about 10 feet or 3m. If you follow this system, you can plant about 880 trees per acre in ideal conditions.

SQUARE GRAPH

I am going to be attaching a graph of a square plantation with equal distance between the rows and trees. The resulting number of trees is just an estimation. These numbers can vary according to soil and nutrient availability.

Distance between trees (meters)Distance between trees (feet)Trees per acre
134050
1. 552400
26.51200
2.58774
310550

A lot of these numbers vary a little bit depending on the source you check. In reality, you should ask your local nursery or the about the needs of particular species. These numbers should be just used as a baseline

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PLANT AN ACRE OF TREES?

The costs associated with planting trees vary as well. Think about it, there are so many factors involved. The size of the tree you are planting will make a lot of difference. Along with this the labor costs involved, especially if you dealing with larger trees. The cost of fertilizers, water management, permits, and taxes. All of these can be add up to be pretty steep.

Obviously, there is the option of doing it yourself. This will be way cheaper but kind of gets difficult if you are dealing with a larger area. This is also not a viable plan if you are planting large or medium-size trees to begin with.

The estimates which I am going to show to you is what you can save if you decided to do it yourself.

If you are dealing with smaller pot trees, each tree can cost about 35$-75$. Keep in mind that this amount also includes any of the transportation involved and the tree itself would be about 4 to 6 ft tall. This cost also covers the soil preparation and equipment needed. So basically, it will take you about 35$ to 75$ to plant a tree from scratch by yourself. The usual labor costs here would be about 30$ for 5 trees.

Note here that this cost represents one tree and other associated costs. But if you decide to buy in bulk which I am assuming you would, the overall costs come down significantly. Think about it, your equipment costs and soil preparation costs will be largely constant.

The tree themselves vary a lot in costs. Some cost less than 1$ per tree (saplings). While some species cost more than 20$ per tree. When buying in bulk the overall cost will be even lower. A good deal can give you about 200 trees for as low as 30$.

A medium tree that is about 8 to 10 feet will cost a bit more. With the higher side being about 190$ including other costs. A large tree that is about 15 to 20 feet tall can cost even more.

I am assuming that if you are going to plant an acre of trees, you likely go for saplings. At least I would. It does not make any sense to plant a whole acre of 6 ft long trees. That would be the most cost-efficient way, but it also takes the longest to grow a forest. (like ten years longer, which is nothing when compared to how long trees can live)

Anyway, in this case, I would assume you’ll pay 1-3 dollars per sapling and could plant 500 trees a day as a beginner. So if you are planting with 6 feet of space between saplings, it would take roughly two and a half days to get them all down.

In short, the trees would cost 1200 to 3600 dollars and the labor cost would be your time or an average daily salary in your area multiplied by tree.

HOW MANY TREES GROW PER ACRE OF LAND IN HEALTHY FOREST?

This figure will depend on the type of forest you are considering. Evergreen forests in the tropics are very dense. The reason for this is the presence of very high levels of nutrients and ample sunlight. Coniferous trees which are another type of evergreens are also pretty dense.

On the other hand, forests in drier regions will be much more spacious. As the soil is dry and the levels of moisture and nutrients are low, there can’t be much growth. In these regions, there are anywhere from 30 to 50 trees per acre.

In tropical rainforests, it is a different story altogether. They are known to be so dense that you won’t be able to walk properly. You can expect anywhere from 200 to 1000 trees per acre. This is not taking into account the shrubs and small plants.

HOW TO CALCULATE HOW MANY TREES GROW ON AN ACRE OF LAND?

THE FORMULA

If you are unsure about the number of trees you will need to order, there is a formula you can use.

T = A X 43,560/(S1 X S2)

So what does this formula means?

T = total number of trees

A = area of the land in acres

S1= space given between the rows (Ft)

S2= space between the trees (Ft)

The previous calculation will be helpful when you have to determine the number of trees you can plant in an area.

What about if you already have trees growing and you would like to know how many trees you have in your forest? You can roughly find out how many trees are already there.

Now, it will be extremely difficult to accurately measure the number of trees growing in an area. But you can find out a rough estimate.

To do this, calculate the number of trees in a smaller area. Once you do this, multiply that number by the total land area. This will give you a rough idea.

For example, make a circle with a radius of about 37 feet. Calculate the number of trees present in that circle. Once you have a number all you need to do is multiply that with 10. The number you end up with will be the number of trees in an acre.

Interestingly a circle of radius 37 feet is roughly 1/10th of an acre in terms of area.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

CAN I GROW DIFFERENT SPECIES OF TREES ON THE SAME PLANTATION?

You can, but you should only go for it if you are going for a natural forest look. If you want efficient output from the plantation then it wouldn’t work as well. This is because of the different needs of different plants. One plant may grow faster and take away all the nutrients from the slow-growing one.

CAN FAST GROWING AND SLOW GROWING TREES COEXIST?

The answer is similar to the previous one. Fast-growing trees tend to take up more nutrients from the soil. This leaves very little for the slow-growing trees. And over time, the slow-growing trees will wither away and die.

CAN I INCREASE THE NUMBER OF TREES ON MY LAND?

Of course, you can! Remember that trees need sunlight, water, and nutrients. If you optimize the amount and type of nutrients you are providing you can increase the number of trees growing on the land.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BASAL AREA AND TREES PER ACRE?

Basal area is simply the area of the cross-section of a tree at about 4.5 feet high. Sometimes trees per acre is not enough to give an estimate about the density of a forest. So along with trees per acre, basal area is also used to give a better idea.

CONCLUSION

To sum it all up, the number of trees on an acre can vary a lot. There are two ways to go about, either growing them in rows or more like a forest. The number of trees being planted depends on the species and type of soil you are growing them, among other factors. Based on this you can calculate the number of trees you can grow. On average, you are looking at anywhere from 300 to 900 trees per acre.

Robert

Hi!
I am the guy behind Theyardable.com. I grew up on a homestead and I am here to share the knowledge I have and things I learn while living in the countryside.

Plants and seeds | RMK

How many forest plants should be planted per hectare? How often should forest plants be planted?
When planting spruces and birches, an average of 2000 seedlings per hectare is planted, the distance between rows is 2.5 meters and the distance between plants is 2 meters. When planting pine trees, an average of 4000 seedlings are planted per hectare, the distance between rows is 2 meters and the distance between plants is 1.2 meters.

Are forest spruces suitable for green hedges and how far apart should they be planted?
Suitable. Spruce hedge is planted in one or two rows. A distance of 1 meter is left between the seedlings, and if they are planted in two rows, then the second row is planted in a checkerboard pattern relative to the first, and the distance between the rows should also be 1 meter.

Are low-quality plants that are not on sale given away free of charge?
Low-quality plants are not sold or distributed free of charge, this is prohibited by legal acts.

How many seeds are used to sow one hectare of forest?
Seeding is used in the cultivation of pine and, to a lesser extent, birch. When sowing pine manually, the seeding rate is 0.6-0.8 kg/ha, when mechanized sowing, depending on the unit used, 0.3-1 kg/ha. The seeding rate for birch is 2-3 kg/ha for manual seeding.

How much seed do you need to buy to grow 10,000 spruce, pine or birch trees?
Pine seeds are consumed during band sowing 1.5-2 g per linear meter, after 2 years you can get 60-80 pine seedlings per meter of sowing row, so you need to buy about 250 g of seeds. Spruce seeds are consumed during band sowing 1.8-2.5 g per linear meter, after 2 years you can get 60-100 spruce seedlings from one meter of the sowing row, so you need to buy about 250 g of seeds. Birch seeds are consumed during scattered sowing of 1-2 g per square meter, birch seedlings are obtained 100-150 pcs. per square meter, thus, you need to buy about 200 g of seeds.

What is the difference between seed from a nursery and seed from a plantation?
Seeds from the nursery are collected from the plantings of seed trees, or nurseries, the plantations grown from them are more productive and of better quality. Seeds from the nursery are mainly used for plant production. Seeds from forest plantations are collected in forest clearings and used primarily for sowing forests.

How to sow spruce, pine and birch seeds to grow plants?
Pine trees are sown on the bed in late April - early May in rows or scattered. When sowing the beds along or across, grooves 4-6 cm wide are prepared, a distance of 15 cm is left between the grooves. The seed leaves 1.5-2 g per linear meter. With broadcast sowing, 7-10 g of seeds per square meter are used. Sowing should be covered with a layer of soil, peat or sand 0.5-1 cm thick. Under normal conditions, pine seeds germinate in 2 weeks.
Spruces are sown in the I-II decade of May on a bed in rows or scattered. Grooves 4-6 cm wide are prepared, a distance of 15 cm is left between the grooves. When sowing in rows, 1.8-2.5 g per linear meter is consumed, with scattered sowing, 8-15 g of seeds per square meter are consumed. Sowing should be covered with a layer of soil, peat or sand 0.5 cm thick. Spruce seeding can be covered with spruce branches or specially made gratings for this purpose. Under normal conditions, spruce seeds germinate in 3 weeks.
Birch seeds are sown in the I-II decade of May randomly at the rate of 1-2 g of seeds per square meter. To facilitate sowing, seeds can be mixed with sand or sawdust. For sowing, choose calm weather. Birch seeds are not covered with soil. Immediately after sowing, the sowing should be covered with agrofiber or spruce branches so that the wind does not blow away the seeds. Agrofibre helps retain moisture and heat. Under normal conditions, birch seeds germinate in 3 weeks.

How many seedlings per hectare - Calculator

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