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Growing Pines in Trying Times: Extension Forestry Programming in the Field

1 David J. Moorhead, 2 C.W. Dangerfield, Jr., E.D. 3 Dickens & 3 L. Zipper

1 Warnell School of Forest Resources, The University of Georgia, P.O. Box 748 Tifton, GA 31793 USA, Email:
Warnell School of Forest Resources Center for Forest Business, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 USA, Email:
Warnell School of Forest Resources, The University of Georgia, P.O. Box 8112 GSU Statesboro, GA 30460 USA, Email:
The University of Georgia, P.O. Box 8112 GSU Statesboro, GA 30460 USA,Email:


Forest landowners are increasingly interested in receiving in-depth forest management information and practical field instruction. To address these demands, extension agents, forestry faculty, and natural resource managers have collaborated on the development and delivery of 2-day forest management training programs for forest landowners managing southern pine stands. Silvicultural practices, economics, and Best Management practices are presented with emphasis on field-based instruction and demonstration.


In 1999, The University of Georgia Daniel B. Warnell School of Forest Resources developed Forestry: Area Specialty Advanced Training (FASAT) to strengthen Cooperative Extension Service county program delivery system areas of sustainable forest productivity and profitability in annual week-long training programs (Moorhead et al. 2000). An additional series of field and hands-on training, day-long field training programs have been held for FASAT agents on the principles of forest stand evaluation. These programs were presented in the physiographic regions and forest types in which the cluster agents are working. Agents were given instruction on how to use the forestry sampling equipment that they received at the initial FASAT program, and to use information collected to characterize stand stocking, growth, health, and management needs. This training also serves as a perquisite for the three-day FASAT training program on growth and yield model use. The summer FASAT program covered:

  • Prism sampling techniques, basal area estimation, height and live crown determination;
  • Forest fertilization update: recommendations, opportunities for establishing demonstration and research plots;
  • Radial growth sampling, calculation of growth rate, leaf area estimation; and,
  • Evaluation of pine stands, growth and yield, thinning responses, stand health

One goal of the FASAT program is to educate landowners that their forest stands represent a valuable resource and they should consider using professional foresters to help them manage their forests. It is important to note that FASAT does not promote cluster agents as an alternative or competitor to consulting or professional foresters, the extension agent’s role is in landowner education programming and not technical service. The FASAT agents now cover all 159 counties and all 55 clusters with 67 agents working in areas of forest productivity as well as urban/rural interface forestry.

After the initial training program, University faculty and FASAT Agents began to develop multi-county (cluster) forestry meetings. The goal was to move away from the traditional limited agenda night meetings held in single counties to a full-day or two-day program format. This allowed a comprehensive agenda to be developed and presented and the program also incorporated field site visit/presentations. The program was called “Growing Pines in Trying Times” to highlight the current farming situation with the downturn in traditional production agriculture (cotton, peanuts, small grains, tobacco) prices that impacts many farmers and other landowners holding rural lands.

Cluster agent/client interest in forestry has increased in recent years with successive years of summer drought, low agricultural commodity prices, and inherently low productivity on marginal agricultural lands. These combinations of disincentives have resulted in costs of agricultural production above returns for many major crops in the state (Moorhead and Dangerfield 1998). Federal agricultural program incentives to remove marginal lands from annual row crop production, such as those found in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), have resulted in the afforestation of marginal cropland. Prime agricultural lands are being farmed at greater levels of intensity with irrigation and precision farming techniques.

Marginally productive agricultural lands are actively shifting to more profitable forest tree crop production. In the last 15 years, over 310 thousand hectares of marginal cropland have been afforested through the CRP by landowners in the state. An estimate additional 202 thousand marginal crop hectares have been afforested outside of the CRP. More than 405 thousand hectares of marginal land remain in crop production that would earn greater landowner returns if shifted to tree crops (Moorhead et al. 1999) (USDA-FS 1988). Shifting from row crop production to tree crops on marginal lands reduces erosion, enhances water quality, and provides positive economic benefits to rural economies (Alig et al. 1988) (Moorhead and Dangerfield 1996).

Program Development

In order to maximize impact, a consortium of agencies and individuals were involved in planning, sponsoring, advertising, hosting, and delivering the program:

University of Georgia County Extension Offices (3 to 4 county clusters)

  • Warnell School of Forest Resources faculty
  • Georgia Forestry Commission
  • Department of Natural Resources
  • Water & Conservation Districts
  • County Reforestation Committees
  • Forest Industry
  • Consulting Foresters
  • Forest Landowners

Representative Program Agenda:

Day 1

8:30 a.m. – 12 noon
Welcome & Announcements
Keynote comments
Dean, School of Forest Resources
Director, Georgia Forestry Commission
Associate Dean, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences
Timber Economics
Forest Fertilization
“Growing Pines in Great Times”

12 – 1:00 p.m. Sponsored Lunch

1 – 4:00 p.m. Field Program
Intensive Management
Stand Establishment
Equipment Demonstrations
Using GPS

Day 2

8:30 a.m. – 12 noon
Landowner Rights
Forestry Regulations
Prescribed Fire Regulations
International Markets
Federal Programs

12 – 1:00 p.m. Sponsored Lunch

1 -4:00 p.m. Field Program
Longleaf Pine Management
Wildlife Management
Pine Straw Production
Thinning & Pruning
Streamside Management Zones


FASAT Agents initiated a series of seven, multi-county (37 counties covered) forestry meetings from the fall of 1999 to the spring of 2001 with the theme “Growing Pines in Trying Times”. Over 700 non-industrial private forest (NIPF) landowners were contacted directly through these meetings. A greater number will be contacted/influenced through a multiplier effect from meeting attendees. Over 405 thousand hectares of NIPF land was represented at the seven meetings. NIPF landowners received information allowing them to increase net returns to tree crops by a conservative estimate of $ 25 USD per hectare per year, or for an estimated total of $10 million USD per year in Georgia. The programs heightened the awareness of clients to the wealth of forestry information and services available from the cooperating agencies and groups. As a result, there has been an increased demand for programs, particularly field sessions, throughout the state. FASAT agents are installing various forestry plots in cooperation with landowners to use for future program sites.

Other states in the U.S. South have participated in the FASAT training. In the FASAT 2000 training, seven county agents representing Texas and Florida participated. Following this, Florida has begun a similar pilot training for county agents.


Program efforts and training are continuing in the FASAT program. This spring, agents received training on stand yield and modeling with GaPPS (Georgia Pine Plantation Simulator). Newly recruited agents received the initial training curriculum, and a new group of agents are enrolled in a rural/urban interface training program. In, 2002, agents will receive a 3-day training program on forestry water quality. “Growing Pines in Trying Times” programs are planned by several clusters for 2002 as well as 1-day sessions on single topic issues like longleaf pine establishment and management, pine straw production, forest fertilization, thinning, and prescribed fire.


1. Alig, R.J, F.C. White, and B.C. Murray. 1988. Economic Factors Influencing Land Use Changes in the South-Central United States. USDA-FS, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, Research Paper SE-272, 23 p.

2. Moorhead, D.J., C.W. Dangerfield, Jr., B.D. Jackson, and B. Izlar. 2000. Initiating multi-county extension forestry clusters: Providing extension agents with forestry area specialty advanced training - FASAT. Pp. 145 - 155. In J. Begus, J. Anderson, and R.L. Beck, eds. Proceedings: 4 th IUFRO Extension Working Party S6.06-03 Symposium - Working under a dynamic framework - forest ownership structures and extension. October 1999. Bled, Slovenia. Zavod za gozdove Slovenije - Slovenia Forest Service, 2000 -

3. Moorhead, D.J., and C.W. Dangerfield, Jr., and G.O. Westberry. 1999. The U.S. South’s marginal acres examined: shifting row crop and pasture land to tree crops. In Proceedings 29th Southern Forest Economic Workshop. Biloxi, MS . Mississippi State University. P. 243-250. April.

4. Moorhead, D.J., and C.W. Dangerfield, Jr. 1998. Shifting Rowcrop and Pasture Land to Tree Crops in GEORGIA: Marginal Crop and Pasture Acres Examined Warnell School of Forest Resources, The University of Georgia Extension Forest Resources Unit - FOR. 98-014, April.

5. Moorhead, D.J., and C.W. Dangerfield, Jr. 1996. Shifting annual row crop production to Conservation Reserve Program tree planting: Impacts on agricultural and personal income, and employment in Georgia. Pp. 202. In Abstracts of papers presented at the Sixth International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, The Pennsylvania State University Dept. of Agricultural Economics & Rural Sociology and The School of Forest Resources. University Park, PA.

6. USDA-FS. 1988. The South's Forth Forest: Alternatives for the Future. Washington, DC: Forest Resource Report No. 24. 512 p.

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