Pine beetles are a threat when trees are stressed, but a cost-share program can help Mississippi private forest landowners keep trees healthy.
Andy Londo, professor in MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center, said proactive management activities, such as periodic thinning, can increase overall forest health and reduce the threat of a Southern pine beetle outbreak.
"Maintaining a healthy, vigorous pine stand is the best defense against the Southern pine beetle," Londo said. "Decreasing the competition between trees is the best way to lower the losses to the beetle."
In 2008, the Mississippi Forestry Commission, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service and the MSU Extension Service, started a cost-share program to encourage private forest landowners to thin dense pine stands to prevent future Southern pine beetle infestations. Cost shares for commercial and pre-commercial thinning are now available throughout the state.
"These cost shares serve as an incentive to conduct thinning operations prior to the next Southern pine beetle outbreak, regardless of market conditions for pulpwood," Londo said.
Thinning the tree stand to desired levels is the best prevention tool. There are no effective chemical treatments to prevent a pine bark beetle infestation in a forestland setting and no reasonable chemical extermination methods.
MSU developed two hazard rating equations to calculate the risk trees face from these beetles. This hazard rating is part of the decision-making process for forest management.
"It is recommended that a consulting forester supervise all the activities to ensure that management goals are realized," Londo said.
Details of the program, including deadlines and payment schedules, are available in the document, Reducing the Threat of Southern Pine Beetle Infestations: A Guide to Cost Share Pine Thinning Operations in Mississippi. Get this information by contacting the local county Extension director or by calling the Extension forestry office at MSU at (662) 325-3905 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, download Identifying and Controlling the Southern Pine Bark Beetles.