Bush hogging to kill saplings does not work:
The encroachment of saplings into fields is a familiar problem that many landowners enrolled in conservation programs face. Land that is no longer farmed or managed follows a path of succession towards becoming a woodland. Without proper management, open fields will revert to the woodlands they once were.
Use of a tractor and bush hog is a far too often utilized practice by many landowners to remove tree seedlings from their property. However, unknown to many landowners, this method does not kill most tree species. Many tree species once cut undergo a re-growth called coppice regeneration. This means that once a tree or shoot is cut, the root has the ability to produce multiple new shoots from the stump to replace the ones cut or destroyed. Unlike the single shoot the roots produced when the seed initially germinated, they now have multiple shoots to supply energy and nutrients to the roots. The root mass continues to grow larger and store more nutrients every year the saplings are cut and then produces multiple new shoots the next growing season.
The most efficient methods landowners can use to prevent woody saplings from growing in their fields are to use an appropriate herbicide (by spot spraying) or a controlled burn (during the growing season) when saplings first emerge. Spot spraying or burning the woody saplings during the growing season is the best and cheapest methods to use to completely kill the tree.
Technical advice can be provided to landowners who need assistance on their property by contacting their local NRCS or FSA office.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
200 South Jefferson Street
Winchester, TN 37398
Office: 931-967-2521 Ext. 114