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Thinnings and woodland stand improvement

Quick facts

Thinnings and timber stand improvement improve the vigor and value of existing forest stands. There are many ways to do this.

  • Thinnings can be pre-commercial or commercial, depending on whether the harvested material is sold.
  • Choosing the type of thinning depends on the different characteristics of your woodland.
  • Thinning strategies include row, selection and crop tree thinning.
Trunks of trees that are part of a thinned red oak stand, dead leaves and seedlings on the forest floor
Thinned red oak stand. Mora, MN

Choose the right kind of thinning

Like choosing the right silvicultural system, choosing the right kind of thinning for your woodland can be somewhat complex. That decision depends on factors such as:

  • Site characteristics.
  • Stand age.
  • Species composition.
  • Stand acreage.
  • Landowner objectives.

Pre-commercial vs. commercial thinnings

Thinnings can be pre-commercial or commercial. In a pre-commercial thinning, harvested material can’t be sold and generally isn’t removed from the site. Woodland managers make pre-commercial thinnings entirely as investments in the stand’s future growth. 

Commercial thinnings, on the other hand, yield products that can be sold. Sometimes commercial thinnings merely break even, covering harvest costs. But in older stands, they can be fairly profitable.

Thinning and woodland stand improvement strategies

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More about thinnings and stand improvement

The North Central Forest Management Guides are another excellent source of information on Minnesota silviculture, including thinnings and stand improvement.

Eli Sagor, Extension forester

Reviewed in 2019

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