Category Archives: Practices

Best management practices for woodland managagement

NRCS Investing up to $360 Million in Partner-Driven Conservation

NRCS will award up to $360 million through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to partnerships that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land. By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in delivering results for agriculture and conservation.

Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on November 4, 2020.

For more information go to:

How trees protect themselves from wounds, disease and pests (including us)

By Paul Hetzler (Naturalist) , in Val-des-Monts, QC

Jul 25, 2020

As someone whose job it is to help preserve trees, I find it ironic that in nearly every case I am saving them from us. We injure their root systems, whack them with mowers and weed-eaters, plant them too deeply, and do many other things which jeopardize their health. It would be terrifying if they could fight back in the manner of Tolkein’s magical Fangorn Forest. For one thing, tree work would be a lot more dangerous than it already is.

But trees are able to defend themselves against pests and diseases. They have both protective structures and protective processes, comparable in some ways to our immune systems. Thanks in large part to research done from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s by Dr. Alex Shigo of the US Forest Service, we know a great deal more about the way trees protect themselves than we did fifty years ago.

We have long known how, just as our skin keeps harmful bacteria on our outsides, bark acts as a shield against tree pathogens. Since they don’t have the luxury of mobility to avoid hazards, trees need thicker “skin” than we do. Layers of living and non-living tissues protect tree trunks, roots and branches from mechanical injury, drying out, as well as from diseases.

But when something breaches this first line of defense – tears through the bark – what happens inside the wood is fascinating. When an injury occurs, a tree will convert some of its stored sugars to make an array of defensive chemicals. It then distributes and deposits these compounds in a specific pattern internally around the wound. Dr. Shigo was the first to document this pattern, which he called CODIT – compartmentalization of decay in trees.

In making these CODIT compartments, trees make create four different chemical walls – two circular, one radial, and one more or less flat horizontally. Describing these walls is a bit esoteric, or maybe boring, but if you’re interested in the details, this US Forest Service document is superb.

I’d like to point out that wound closure, often referred to as “healing over,” is not closely related to how much decay will occur. The extent of rot depends on how effectively a tree can wall off infections. Closure is good in as much as the vascular system no longer needs to detour around a wound, but closure doesn’t protect against inner decay if the tree is too weak to chemically protect itself.

The success of this walling-off depends a lot on the species. Hard maple and white oak, for instance, can generate a strong CODIT response. Poplar and willow, on the other hand, barely manage to form any chemical walls, while species like red oak and soft maple do a mediocre job of it.

Overall tree vitality is another important factor. We know that if we’re chronically stressed, malnourished, poorly hydrated or otherwise run down, we are a lot more vulnerable to illness. Even a sugar maple may not be able to form strong chemical walls if it’s in a weakened state. By definition, landscape trees are stressed as compared to their forest-dwelling cousins. A street tree is worse-off yet, faced with reflected heat, limited root space, road salt, air pollution and more.

And of course the size of the injury makes a difference. Even a happy, healthy tree can have its defenses overwhelmed by a large wound. We know that many times, the tree loses its battle against decay.

Much less is known about the way trees react to insect pests. We’re aware that trees defend against insect pests by engaging their internal chemistry set to synthesize compounds, known to scientists as Bad Tasting Stuff, to repel them (insects, that is – not scientists). In many cases trees seem able to tailor their natural repellant to a specific bug. But these designer chemicals aren’t perfect – just look at what tent caterpillars and gypsy moths can do.

It has recently come to light that trees have a kind of distant-early warning system. Apparently they can signal one another about what type of pest has arrived on the scene to munch foliage. This communication happens under the ground through root grafts, though the mechanism is not well-researched. Some biologists also think that airborne chemicals might carry messages related to pests or diseases as well.

Creative Commons, no derivative works

In addition, trees have protective structures called branch collars, located at the base of every branch. Branch collars are more adept than regular trunk tissue at producing fungicides to form protective barriers. This collar is usually a slightly enlarged “donut” ring at the base of the branch – it’s essential not to damage or remove it when pruning. Especially on hardwoods, pruning cuts must never be flush with the trunk; rather they should be made just outside the branch collar.

You can help maximize your tree’s “immune system” by watering during dry spells, mulching out to the dripline, and keeping vehicles off the root zone. In return, your tree will help keep you in optimal health by offering shade, beauty and companionship.

This is what purple paint means


According to the Purple Paint Law, states allow landowners to paint a fence post or pole on the edge of their property purple to signify “No Trespassing.” Why no signs? Some landowners might have signs, too, but acclimate weather has a tendency to knock those signs down.

While the posts signify no trespassing in general, they specifically refer to “No Hunting” on the owner’s property.

At this time Kentucky is not one of the eleven states that have this law in place.  Read more…


NRCS is asking for your review and comment

USDA State Technical Committee and Other Interested Persons are asked for review and comment on two specific items.

State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE)

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has the opportunity to review and modify the existing SAFE proposal for Kentucky.  SAFE is a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative that stands for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement.  Kentucky has had a SAFE agreement in place for a number of years in the western part of the state, targeting bobwhite quail habitat and songbird habitat.  Changes made in the current Farm Bill necessitated modifications to the existing proposal, so FSA, NRCS, and the original stakeholders met informally to review the proposal and draft the required modifications.  We also took the opportunity to make additional changes to improve the agreement and expand the habitat types used to improve conditions for the target species.


Before the proposal can be submitted for approval and use in the state, FSA is requesting the State Technical Committee review the attached as put forth by the project stakeholders.  If anyone has any comments or questions, they may be addressed to by COB, June 15, 2020.


Wetland Restoration Criteria and Guidelines (WRCG)

With the issuance of the revised Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) manual dated February 2020 part 440-528.131 (B.) there is a request that states develop a Wetland Restoration Criteria and Guidelines (WRCG) document. This document outlines the state’s decision making process for ACEP-Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) activities related to eligibility, ranking, selection, restoration, enhancement, and management of wetlands and associated habitats under the ACEP-WRE program to ensure program objectives are met.  When the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) was established and implemented in Kentucky all of these considerations were developed. The WRCG places these decisions in one document.


The State Technical should review and comment by June 12, 2020 for approval. No comment will mean acceptance. Questions or comments please contact Allen Arthur at


NRCS Requesting Input

To USDA State Technical Committee and Other Interested Persons:


The new federal fiscal year starts in four months!!  As you might imagine, Kentucky NRCS staff is already making plans for FY 2021 program updates and changes.  With COVID-19 limiting our ability to meet together, it is our hope that you will consider this method of interacting as a continuation of our usual collaboration on NRCS programs and priorities.  We welcome and value your input on any or all of the following:


  • Practices:  Are there practices or activities beneficial to Kentucky farmers that aren’t currently offered under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)?
  • Payments:  Have you heard any comments regarding practice payment rates received by program participants that are too low or too high? Are there practices for which we should offer an increased payment rate in order to address certain priority resource concerns?
  • Priorities: In addition to locally-led-identified focused conservation projects and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects, we have national and state EQIP priorities where applications compete against like-applications (and sometimes in certain geographical areas.)  The FY 2020 list is shown below (not in any particular order). Are there specific priorities or resource concerns/focuses that we are not addressing/focusing on or any you wish we wouldn’t consider a priority?
    • High Tunnel Systems
    • Organic (Certified and Transitioning)
    • Manure Management
    • Irrigation Water Management
    • Conservation Activity Plans (plans written by certified technical service providers (TSPs))
    • Historically Underserved (a separate category each for beginning farmers, limited resource producers and socially disadvantaged producers)
    • Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative
    • Wildlife
    • Woodland
    • Pastureland
    • Cropland
  • NWQI & MRBI:  In FY 2021, selected watersheds will undergo a planning and assessment year for FY 2022 financial assistance under the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI).  Your input regarding watershed selection was solicited for this via email on May 7, 2020.   Responses were requested by May 22, however if you would still like to provide input, please send that to Tim Hafner at
  • NRCS Source Water Protection Priority Areas:  We have been given the opportunity to refine the NRCS SWPPAs which were identified with your input last year (map is attached for your information.)  For FY 2020, EQIP applicants in these areas received extra ranking points.  There is also an opportunity to provide a higher payment rate for certain practices that address water quality/quantity in these areas.  Are there other areas that should be considered for NRCS SWPPAs?  Should any of the existing ones be enlarged or removed? Are there practices that should be given consideration for a higher payment rate?


In addition to your input on the above issues, we would like your feedback on a few specific items that we are considering for FY 2021 or 2022:

  • Through EQIP, we plan to offer a roofed animal feeding facility in FY 2021.  Our intent is to address the surface and subsurface water quality concerns that can arise from feeding livestock over winter.  This would require a comprehensive nutrient management plan prior to approval.  The facility would consist of several practices including waste storage facility, heavy use area, roofs and covers, roof runoff, and other related components.   While we currently offer these individual practices, we haven’t provided EQIP financial assistance for covered feeding areas in the past and are asking for your feedback on this.
  • Although we have identified irrigation water management (IWM) as a state priority for the last several years, we have not had many applications in this fund account.  EQIP requires that land offered for irrigation practices must have been irrigated at least 2 out of the last 5 years to quality for irrigation-related conservation practices and activities, and those practices/activities must improve water conservation/result in water savings.  We would like your input on what is needed regarding IWM in Kentucky.
  • We would like to build our staff capacity for natural stream design in FY 2021 and potentially offer technical and financial assistance to producers in FY 2022 and would welcome your input on this topic.  The purpose would be to address eroding streambanks and unstable stream reaches.  Natural Stream Design utilizes strategic rock placement, biologic material and other techniques while limiting the use of rip rap or gabion type structures.


While this is a rather long list of items for which we’re asking your input, we value and consider carefully your input for our program delivery.  Unless otherwise noted above, please send your input and feedback for any of the topics for which you have an interest to by June 30, 2020.

Deena Wheby |  Assistant State Conservationist for Programs |  771 Corporate Drive, Suite 300, Lexington KY 40503 | Phone:  859.224.7403  FAX: 855.768.4249

EQIP Establishes March 6 as the Next Cut-off Date

The Kentucky Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that the 2020 sign-up cut-off date for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) will be March 6, 2020.

Applications received by March 6, 2020 will be evaluated for funding. Applications received after March 6, 2020, will be accepted, but will be held for funding consideration if a second evaluation cycle occurs in 2020. Unfortunately, a second application batching period for general EQIP is unlikely for year 2020 so this may be your only opportunity in 2020 to apply for financial assistance to implement forest conservation practices on your woodland.

Woodland owners interested in implementing forest conservation practices on their woodland should contact their local NRCS office to apply ASAP. If you are a woodland owner in central or northeast Kentucky who has been waiting to obtain a woodland management plan please inform the NRCS office staff that you are interested in participating in the “UK Forestry RCPP” project which is trying to service woodland owners who have been waiting to receive a forest management plan.

How local forestry organizations can address woodlands issues in your community

Is there a forestry issue in your county that needs to be addressed? You don’t have to go it alone. Several state and local agencies can provide professional guidance and education for a group of committed citizens who want to take action regarding a woodlands concern in their community.

The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has developed three fact sheets to assist woodland owners in the:


operation and

program planning

for local forestry organizations.

LFOs are independent local organizations comprised of woodland owners, forest industry, local leaders, and anyone else interested in forestry issues. LFOs provide interested individuals an opportunity to increase their knowledge on forest management and respond to local and state forestry issues.