Dollars and Common Sense:  Why Consulting Forester John Sisson’s Top Ten Reasons to Plant SuperTree Seedlings MCPs and Varietals

John Sisson is a consulting forester managing land for clients in the Piedmont region of Georgia. A recent visit to some of his stands of SuperTree Seedlings® Varietals showed the visible progress of these trees and gave us great insight into why John plants both SuperTree Seedlings MCP® and Varietal seedlings. We thought his Top Ten reasons were pretty convincing.

Seeing is Believing!
Seeing is Believing!John in front of a 5-year-old stand of ArborGen AGV124 Varietals in Taliaferro County, GA
  1. I’m not planting trees. I’m managing land. Managing land is a business.
  2. I want more of the higher-value chip-n-saw class than pulpwood at first thinning, and I want it faster.
  3. I want to plant 545 trees per acre instead of 726 trees per acre.
  4. I want a higher return on my investment in site prep, herbaceous weed control and planting. Even if I add in the cost-per-acre to jump from Elite OP to MCP Select of about $55, these higher genetics give me an average increase in value of around $130 per acre, per year, over a rotation, so I’ve more than doubled my money in the cost of the seedlings.
  5. I’m looking for a $600 per acre at first thinning instead of a $300 return on investment at first thinning.
  6. I don’t want to play “pick and choose” for poles and sawtimber at clearcutting. I want a stand of poles and sawtimber at clearcutting.
  7. I’m working on a 25-30 year rotation and want to have the highest value product available at the end of that rotation. I’m trying to grow the same amount of dollars-per-acre by growing more volume of high-grade products. Higher volume means higher dollars in any market.
  8. I’m looking for a total of $4,000 return per acre.
  9. I’ve run the numbers, and planting advanced genetics is the cheapest way to get a better economic return faster.
  10. As a consulting forester, the faster I make more money for my clients, the faster I make more money for myself.

Getting What He’s Looking For From Advanced Genetics

Walking through a stand of ArborGen AGV124 Varietal saplings at age five in Taliaferro county, Georgia, is visual proof that John Sisson, consulting forester for Southern Forest Management LLC in Washington, Georgia, is getting what he’s looking for out of our most elite genetic seedlings. They’re four times taller than John, straight, healthy and showing the promise of a good return on investment in the future.

John’s objective in managing timberland for his clients is to get the most return out of the land possible. He approaches timberland as an investment – an investment with a 25-30 year rotation, and that makes managing timberland a business.

If you own one tract of timberland, you own a business. You’re not just planting trees, you’re managing land, and land management is a business. It may be a family business and it might be the smallest business in the U.S., but having timberland is better than money in the bank.

More Chip-n-Saw Means More Profit

John lives and works near Washington, GA in the rolling hills of the Piedmont region of the state. “We have notoriously low pulpwood stumpage prices in this area,” says John. “So my goal is to have more chip-n-saw than pulpwood at first thinning and I want to get there as fast as possible. I’m not just looking for diameter, but also for good form. With typical 2nd or 3rd gen trees you’ll get about 41 tons per acre at first thin but basically 90% will be pulpwood and only 10% super pulpwood or chip-n-saw. Instead, with these elite genetics, I expect to have 30, 40, even 50% in chip-n-saw. Instead of $300 per acre at first thinning, I want $600.”

I’ve got one client with several thousand acres and he’s an avid stock market watcher. He’ll call me and say, ‘Well, the stock market is down today, but my trees are still out there growing.’ I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t control the future, but I CAN control putting better and more high value wood on every acre of land. If we don’t have the best market at the end of the line, we will still have a higher value product, and higher value products sell for more money – regardless of the market. When you’ve got more acres of land with a lot of really good sawtimber trees and a high percentage of poles, you’re going to get a better return on your investment.

More Volume, More Value Per Acre With Elite Genetics

John is trying to do things in a way that gives more volume/more value per acre. “It’s 2016. We don’t have to do things a certain way because that’s the way it’s been done in the past. I remember shearing and raking and drum chopping. Today that would cost a lot of money to do. I have so much more advantages in site prep than was available twenty or thirty years ago. I want to get that higher volume per acre in the most economical way that I can.”

One part of John’s analysis is “cost-to-plant.” “It doesn’t cost me any more to do site prep, plant and herbaceous weed control whether I am planting ArborGen’s MCPs or Varietals or plain old Loblolly Pines from anywhere. The seedlings cost more, but I plant fewer of them per acre so I can spend $55 more per acre to jump from OP Elites to MCP Select and get an average increase in value over a rotation per acre of around $130 per acre per year in growth, so I’ve more than doubled my money in the seedlings.”

And, if you’ve got a lot of timberland and you’re cutting timber every year on one or more tracts, you have the revenue coming in on the timber sales and the money to spend to do it right. “If you structure things right, you get the maximum tax benefits and essentially you get $10,000 per stand in reforestation expenses and that means that you’re going to be writing off somewhere in the 75% range of your expenses – for really nice pine trees.”

It’s pretty much the balance between dollars and common sense. When you do the math, using the best possible genetic material you can afford is always going to give you the best numbers when it comes time to go to market.

Getting The Best Numbers When It Comes Time To Go To Market

For John, doing the best job possible is not just about him. “I’m being hired as a professional consultant by people who need their timberland managed sustainably – both economically and ecologically. I work to do the best job possible for these clients no matter how small or large their timberland holdings. They depend on me to know how the business works and what management plans will give them the most value per acre. It’s pretty much the balance between dollars and common sense. When you do the math, using the best possible genetic material you can afford is always going to give you the best numbers when it comes time to go to market.”

John Sisson, Consulting Forester