Dry conditions cause problems to Pine Belt timber

By Karrie Leggett – email | bio

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Going several weeks without rain has created a major problem for timber land owners in Mississippi.

Extension Forester for Mississippi State Butch Bailey says the biggest threat to timber is wildfires. Even with a burn ban, there are still incidents of land being destroyed by fire.

"We do see trees die, and we are seeing trees die from this," said Bailey.

"We always have fires this time of year in Mississippi. Wildfires are a major concern of ours and when it gets dry and stays dry like this those numbers of wildfires go up," said Bailey.

Wildfires are one concern, but these dry conditions also bring something tiny that causes big destruction on valuable timber.

"Its a small little insect. The Southern Pine Beetle is about a third the size of a uncooked grain of rice. They are a little bitty thing. Their activities increase when we have droughts like this the trees are not able to defend themselves against this insect and they can significantly impact tree mortality," said Bailey.

The impact? The insect actually kills the tree from the inside out.

"They burrow underneath the bark of the tree and they get between the bark and the wood on a thin layer of tissue called the cambium. They actually girdle the trees from the inside. So from the outside of the tree the tree may look healthy but it is dying on the inside," said Bailey.

There isn't a way to control the lack of rain, but there is a way to help timber from the results of dry conditions like the Southern Pine Beetle.

"If the trees are thinned well and have plenty of room to grow they can normally fight off Southern Pine Beetle attacks on their own," said Bailey.

Several weeks without rain causes major problems for timber, so hopefully we will see some showers soon.

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