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‘Hack and squirt’ time here

Posted on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

By Chris Carney, Area Forester, Division of Forestry

It’s that time of the year again when the leaves are beginning to change color and the temperatures are dropping. Most of the trees in Tennessee will be drawing down their sap to their root system for winter dormancy.

For most forest landowners, early fall is also the time to practice a little “TSI” or Timber Stand Improvement. TSI can be applied to forests for many reasons including improving wildlife habitat conditions, decreasing undesirable and exotic invasive species, or releasing favorable “crop trees” within the forest.

There are several different methods of TSI, but the one I recommend a lot is the “hack and squirt” or frill treatment. This is just a simple method of applying herbicides to undesirable or exotic invasive tree species. All you need is a hatchet, a squirt bottle, tree identification skills, eye protection, and some gloves.

A basic glyphosate (active ingredient) product is recommended for control of most species, but there are numerous other chemicals that are labeled for the hack and squirt method. Once you have selected the appropriate herbicide, downward cuts into the targeted trees can be made at a comfortable height which is usually around 4’ or 5’ above ground. Be sure and leave the chip in place so that the herbicide will remain in the cut.

It is also important to avoid excessive runoff; 1mL or one squirt of herbicide is recommended to be applied to each cut. A couple of general recommendations are to make one cut for every 2 inches in trunk diameter and to space each cut approximately one inch apart. Be sure and always read the label and the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) precautionary statement before using any herbicides.

If you’re having trouble trying to think of an exotic invasive species, please allow me to help: Ailanthus (Ailanthus altissima). This central China native was first introduced to America in 1784 by a gardener in Pennsylvania. This is by far the most common exotic invasive tree species that I observe on farms today.

Ailanthus, or Tree of Heaven as it is commonly referred, is a prolific seed producer, grows rapidly, and easily out-competes desirable native species such as yellow-poplar, Northern red oak, white oak, and black walnut. All parts of the tree, especially the flowers, have a strong, offensive odor. Ailanthus has smooth stems with pale gray bark, and twigs which are light chestnut brown, especially in the dormant season. Its large compound leaves, 1-4 feet in length, are composed of 11-25 smaller leaflets and alternate along the stems.

Correct identification of ailanthus is essential when practicing the “hack and squirt” method of TSI due to its resemblance of other native species such as black walnut, sumacs, and pecans.

So the next time you take a walk in your woods, be sure and grab that hatchet and squirt bottle and improve your forest stand by using the hack and squirt method.

Feel free to contact me regarding this topic or any other forest management issue at 931-685-5030 or chris.carney@tn.gov.