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4/15/16 – Pine seedlings for reforestation in the U. S. South

by Bucky Henson

Photos courtesy of Arborgen website

Last week, I had the opportunity to join a group who visited the Arborgen headquarters near Ridgefield, South Carolina.  In addition, we were taken on a tour of one of the company’s nearby seed orchards and several test plots where young and mature trees are growing.

If you have a reforestation project on your timberland upcoming in the next few years, be sure to look into the wide array of seedlings that are now available from companies such as Arborgen (, IFCO (International Forest Company) (, and others.

Generally speaking, the three main categories of Loblolly Pine (pinus taeda) seedlings that we were shown by the Arborgen folks are:  Open Pollination (OP); Mass Control Pollination (MCP); and Varietals.  It was clear to me that the expected quality and growth rates (and level of investment) for the three categories increases from OP to MCP to Varietals.

The Arborgen website gives the following explanations of each category:

Open Pollination

“An Open Pollinated (OP) tree is a cross between a known, superior mother tree and a random father tree from an orchard of known superior genetics. ArborGen geneticists have researched and identified our very best crosses and then selected our very best individual trees within those crosses. Using the best of our high performance trees, ArborGen has cultivated seed orchards  for decades to ensure that all of our Pine seedlings begin with an excellent genetic inheritance.”

Mass Control Pollination

“ArborGen Mass Control Pollinated (MCP®) seedlings are the result of more than 50 years of forest genetics research and the screening of more than 5,000 parent trees of Loblolly Pine. From these 5,000 parents, ArborGen uses only the top 30 crosses among the best of these families, or the top one percent. MCP Elite parents are carefully selected for gains in growth rate and quality traits such as log straightness, reduced forking and exceptional resistance to fusiform rust disease.”


“In a typical stand, only a very small percentage of trees combine all of the ideal traits preferred by growers and customers. These elite Pine trees are more likely to produce offspring that will exhibit similar ideal traits. However, not all seeds from an elite Pine tree will produce trees similar to the parent. This is where ArborGen makes a difference. Part of our unique expertise is in our ability to identify and cultivate elite Pine trees that express the best combination of traits and then producing these trees for our customers through our proprietary production technology.  

Pine Varietals are produced by exactly replicating specifically selected single trees with the highest growth performance and best quality characteristics utilizing the process of somatic embryogenesis or vegetative propagation. These processes allow ArborGen to produce millions of genetically identical Varietal seedlings. The uniformity and productivity benefits from Varietals create significant value for landowners. Customers can choose Varietals with improved productivity, straightness and branching characteristics that will optimize the value of their land.”


Within each of the three main categories of OP, MCP and Varietals, there are sub-categoreies of overall seedling quality –  each with their own level of investment required.  I say “level of investment,” because that’s how I perceive it.  Yes, it comes down to cost in dollars vs. expected return.  The question is whether the up-front cost of the seedlings will lead to sufficiently greater returns down the road.  Your provider of seedlings – be they Arborgen, IFCO or some other provider – will assist you in evaluating the trade-offs between cost and quality to match your needs.

At TrueSouth and our sister company, Buchanan Timber & Forestry, LLC, we are incorporating MCP and Varietal seedlings into our reforestation program – in addition to the traditonal OP seedlings we have planted over the years.

Another benefit to working with TrueSouth Properties:  Our very strong background in growing volume and value in pine and hardwood forests in the U. S. South.  An investment in Alabama, Georgia and/or Mississippi timberland carries with it many benefits, including timber investment income, recreation, land value appreciation, and many others.  As with opportunities to enhance the recreational aspect of your land (through green fields, summer plantings, supplemental feedings, trail and road construction, cabin contstruction, etc.), there are also many opportunities to enhance your investment returns.  With careful consideration of costs vs. benefits, including some of the genetically superior seedlings in your reforestation plans may be such an opportunity.

If you are looking for investment properties – timberland, farmland, or other Alabama land for sale, Georgia land for sale or Mississippi land for sale, TrueSouth is ready to assist you.

Give us a call at 800-200-LAND, if we can be of help.

By: Red Clay

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