Category Archives: Practices

Best management practices for woodland managagement

Applications are currently being accepted for soil and water quality cost share programs

The Kentucky Soil Erosion and Water Quality Cost Share Program and the Kentucky Soil Stewardship Program helps landowners address existing soil erosion, water quality and other environmental problems associated with their farming or woodland operation. Funds are administered by local conservation districts and the Kentucky Soil and Water Conservation Commission with priority given to animal waste-related problems, agricultural district participants and to producers who have their Agriculture Water Quality plans on file with their local conservation districts.

If a landowner wants to apply for either State Cost Share or EQIP funding, the first step is to make a request to their local Conservation District office.

Practices eligible for cost share are:

agriculture and animal waste control facilities;

streambank stabilization;

animal waste utilization;

vegetative filter strips;

integrated crop management;

pesticide containment;

sinkhole protection;

pasture and hay land forage quality;

heavy use area protection;

rotational grazing system establishment;

water well protection;

forest land and cropland erosion control systems;

closure of agriculture waste impoundment;

on-farm fallen animal composting;

soil health management;

precision nutrient management;

strip intercropping system;

livestock stream crossing; and

riparian area protection.

For more information and applications for these programs…

See the Kentucky Soil & Water Quality State Cost Share Program Manual – pp. 35-41 for Forestland BMP.

Producers can complete their Agriculture Water Quality Plan at the UK College of Agriculture web page below using the “Producer’s Workbook” tab.  This webpage is linked from the Division of Conservation’s AWQA web page.

Forest Carbon: A Natural Solution for Climate Change

As a forest landowner, or as someone who helps to steward forests, you can have a significant impact on climate change through the land-use decisions you make.

Forest Carbon: An Essential Natural Solution for Climate Change

2019 University of Massachusetts Amherst

What role will your forest play? Learn:

  • the difference between carbon storage and sequestration
  • what is a carbon pool
  • the difference between individual tree and forest-wide growth rates
  • how forest succession and development affects carbon storage and sequestration
  • the role of forest products in the carbon story
  • the carbon trade-offs of passive and/or active approaches to forest management
  • carbon-informed forest management

Read more…

In addition to keeping forests as forests, landowners’ decisions about the management of their forest and carbon should be made with an understanding of the trade-offs between maximizing carbon sequestration and storage and meeting their other goals (forest resiliency, wildlife, local wood products).

Edge cutting woodlands for wildlife habitat

Creating new forest openings in successive strips can improve their hunting opportunities through a series of manageable projects while also allowing for forest regeneration through natural production of new seedlings. In fact, there are some clear advantages to gradually regenerating your woods in small stages as compared to a single, large cut.


Advantages of this technique include:

– Creation of a transitional zone

– Providing cover adjacent to forage

– Flexible scheduling

– Incremental testing

When to let a dead tree lie

It’s often argued that logging trees killed by insects or diseases is beneficial for forests—but evidence is mounting that it causes long-term ecological disruption.

The latest findings come from Białowieża Forest, a 550-square-mile woodland that straddles Poland and Belarus. It’s one of the few places in Europe where natural cycles of wind, fire, and disease still shape a forest at landscape scales. However, salvage logging after bark beetle outbreaks has altered the potential for natural generation according to a new study in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

The forest is set on a new trajectory that inevitably leads to the homogenization of the forest. Several years later, the herb layer in logged sites was dominated by disturbance specialists rarely found within the intact forest. The previous herb layer was largely destroyed by machinery or withered in the suddenly intense sunshine. Their seeds did not sprout. When beetle-killed trees were left alone, though, the original herb layer regrew. Dead trees provided necessary shade; their fallen trunks and branches created pockets of protection from grazing.

Biochar, Returning Carbon to the Soil…Naturally

Farmers and forest landowners are unlocking anew approach and bringing back an ancient practice that transforms farm waste into high-quality compost to improve soil health. Partners are converting animal manure and woody debris into biochar – a form of long-lasting charcoal. Biochar not only provides benefits to soil health, but also production and carbon sequestration. A new enhancement for the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program allows participants to convert their woody debris into biochar.

Biochar is made by baking biomass (such as tree wood, plants, manure, and other organic materials) without the oxygen that could cause it to burn completely to ash. In the barn it can be applied directly to manure to capture nitrogen as it is generated. It can be mixed with composted manure for use a as fertilizer for pastures.

Simple, portable kilns are used to burn biomass to create biochar. The key to burning is that the flame is on the top of the kiln—which burns particulates in smoke and limits oxygen flow to the char layers below the flame, preventing the char from burning all the way to ash.

For a deeper dive into the science of biochar and on-farm applications check out these online resources.

For more information on USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grants.

Barr Farms, Rhodelia, KY is presenting its experience with biochar at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group conference January 22-25 in Little Rock, AR.




















In Their Own Woods – Sketches of Kentucky Woodland Owners – Duncan family forest, Logan County

The second installment in KWOA’s new In Their Own Woods series presents a sketch of Henry Duncan’s family forest in Logan County, Kentucky. Henry is a retired UK extension agent and a past KWOA president. We would like to hear about your experience as a woodland owner. Contact us at and you could be the subject of the next sketch in the series.

Nancy and Henry Duncan own and manage a 450 acre diversified timber, grain crop and livestock farm in Logan County, South Central Kentucky. These 450 acres were acquired in four separate farm tracts over several years. The farm is a part of farm acreage initially owned by Duncan’s great, great grandfather, William T. Duncan, who accumulated several thousand acres of predominately hardwood timberland to support his pre-civil war leather tanning operation.The state highway 79 hill adjacent to the farm is named Duncan’s Hill.

In earlier years, a farm neighbor, Mr. Williams, became young Duncan’s mentor concerning forestry and conservation interests. Williams was dedicated to the value of timber and conservation practices. Duncan was given free access to walk and hunt with Mr. Williams on the farm where he would discuss timber and his plans to plant pine trees along eroded areas.  Several years later, Mr. Williams and his wife proposed to sell that 204 acre farm to the Duncans stating it was their desire for them to own it. They even suggested financial arrangements to accommodate Duncan’s limited resources.

A second farm tract was purchased at public auction; then a third track was purchased by private treaty sale and finally, Duncan inherited part of the home farm and purchased the remainder from family members.

Today the farm consists of 200 acres of hardwood timber, 100 acres of rotated corn, soybean, wheat and 150 acres of pastureland with beef cattle. The long-range plan is to install best management practices as needed throughout the farm to prevent soil erosion and maintain clean water in adjacent streams. A profitable farming operation is sought to help encourage and maintain dependable farm operators.

This absentee owner family farm necessitates dependence on qualified, on-site operators. Long distance phone calls from watchful neighbors reporting potential timber thefts, equipment thefts or livestock broken out of fields onto public highways and private properties present stressful issues. Immediate communication is required with the onsite farm operator who must be available to deal with such issues.

Several state agencies have provided information and assistance in the Duncan’s stewardship of their woodlands. In land management planning and practices, support from the Ky Division of Forestry service foresters in developing and updating five-year sustainable forestry plans have been invaluable. The University of Kentucky Forestry Department provides needed research and educational information. NRCS Soil Conservationists, Ky Division of Conservation and USDA Farm Service Agency are valuable team members in providing technical assistance and financial cost share support in establishing best management practices.

Henry assesses what he calls a “tale of two timber harvests” on his property – one before membership in KWOA and the other after becoming a member.

The first harvest was conducted in 1982 on the first track the Duncan’s had purchases two years earlier. Henry bought the bill of goods proposed by a logger to do all the work, cut everything that was marketable and split the proceeds from the timber sale. Sixty five acres were cut (“trashed” according to Henry) before the logger filed for bankruptcy. Getting any payment at all required the services of an attorney.

Henry then took advantage of membership in KWOA to learn and appreciate timber and to meet many outstanding contacts. Several state agencies provided information and assistance in the Duncan’s stewardship of their woodlands. In land management planning and practices, support from the Ky Division of Forestry service foresters in developing and updating five-year sustainable forestry plans has been invaluable. The University of Kentucky Forestry Department provides needed research and educational information. NRCS Soil Conservationists, Ky Division of Conservation and USDA Farm Service Agency have provided technical assistance and financial cost share support in establishing best management practices. Establishing BMPs throughout the farm has resulted in much needed soil erosion control and clean waters.

A service forester assisted in the preparation of a five-year stewardship plan. In 2005 the Duncan’s service forester suggested conducting a sustainable harvest on their second 35 acre track. UK forestry staff put Henry in contact with consulting forester Kraig Moore, Bowling Green, to manage the timber sale.

The timber was marked according to Henry’s desire to leave younger growth timber that could be harvested in another fifteen years or so. Logger bids were received, a contract was signed and payment was made up front. To Henry’s surprise, during the harvest several veneer grade white oak and walnut trees were discovered that fell outside the original contract. Representatives from Louisville paid high dollar for that timber. During the harvest a state service forester came by unannounced for spot checks to ensure best management practices were followed. Following the harvest, a tenant family supplied their firewood sale business with residue from the timber harvest.

In 1985 the farm was designated the Kentucky Tree farm of the year which involved the hosting of a statewide woodland field day. In 1990 it was designated the Logan County Conservation farm of the year. The farm hosted a UK Woodland Owners Short course in 2019. Numerous local farm field tours have also been conducted on the farm.

This diversified farming operation is challenged to show a continuing net profit. But the combination of adjoining woodlands with grain crops and pasture grassland provide good wildlife habitat where trophy deer, ample turkey and small game are harvested. The grain crop enterprise requires less labor and more expensive equipment, but proves to be the most profitable enterprise. The cattle operation requires more labor and capital outlay and is less profitable. But it does provide the opportunity for maintaining a more attractive farmstead. The timber enterprise is less labor intensive but does requires some specialized management. Timber income is realized over a much more extended time.

As Henry pauses to reflect on their farming operation, he realizes they have a lot to be thankful for. “Some of the things I am most thankful for are my faith, family, freedom and the opportunity to be a woodland farmer. These are the things we often take for granted and don’t always acknowledge the impacts that they make on our lives. As we thrive in our pursuits, may we pause to count the blessings in our lives and reflect on the best things this life offers us.”


University of Kentucky “deep ripping” methodology increases sapling survival on coal mining sites in WV

mining sites in WV

“Planting a tree is only one step in the process” in rebuilding woodland, says Christopher Barton, a professor of forest hydrology at the Appalachian Center of the University of Kentucky and founder of Green Forests Work.

In the 1980’s West Virginia coal companies compacted the mountainsides of coal mining sites with bulldozers while attempting to plant “desperation species” – grasses with shallow roots and non-native trees – that complied with federal law but did not restore the forest.

Green Forests Work, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, are utilizing a “deep ripping” approach that gives rainwater and tree roots a better chance to push down into the soil. On old mining sites within West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest where the team has deep-ripped over the last decade, the survival rate of saplings has been around 90%.

Read more….

Older trees remove more carbon from the atmosphere

Helping existing forests grow to their full potential is more beneficial than reforesting areas that were previously logged or growing trees in areas where there were none.

The research paper “Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good,” published in scientific journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change on June 11, cites research that found “extending harvest cycles and reducing cutting on public lands had a larger effect than either afforestation or reforestation on increasing carbon stored in forests in the Northwest United States.”