I have attached some pictures of what I am dealing with. I purchased this property about 2 years ago. From what I was told it was logged off (high grade) approx 15 years ago. I would like to try establishing more red oak as not many remain. The beech has taken over this section. My question is can some methods of control be used in the winter time and how effective are they at this time of the year? One of the pictures looks like beech bark disease. Any advice would be very welcomed.
Looks like you have a challenge ahead of you. You definitely have beech bark disease in the top photo. Trying to treat beech in the winter is more difficult than trying in the spring or summer. Since it is already mid-January, you might want to wait for a few months and then start hand cutting/herbicide or hack and squirt type of herbicide treatments. If you are not open to herbicide, you should try to cut the beech just after it has "leafed out" in the late spring. Cutting at this time begins to weaken the tree by using up its food reserves and lessens the amount of stump sprouting that will occur. Controlling beech can be difficult but can be done on woodlots with some patience and investment. If it were me, I would suggest an herbicide treatment, either with cutting or hatchet application.
As for trying to establish oak, you will need to think about some things that oak need to regenerate. They will need lots of light, so you will need to create openings in the forest. They also need the ground to be disturbed and torn up a little. You also need a sufficient seed source close by to provide seed. Finally, you will need some sort of protection once the seedlings are established. You will need to control the deer either through hunting, deer fencing, or tree protection/shelters. You may find that you don’t have enough oak to provide seed and will need to plant trees. You can buy trees at nurseries or try the Saratoga Tree Nursery. It is operated by the DEC and provides seedling of many different species. You have to call then to see what is available, but this might be an option. I hope this helps and good luck!
I agree with Christopher that herbicides will be the best method for control. Cutting after leafout will weaken the tree, but probably not enough to prevent stump and/or root sprouting. The herbicide options most suitable for your woods are "selective" applications so the treatment should have minimal or no off-target impacts. If you haven't already seen it, here is a link to our beech management fact sheet.
You have a couple options for applying herbicides. One is basal bark treatment of the pole sized stems, a second is hack and squirt, and a third is cut-surface/stump treatment. Basal bark is via Garlon 4 in vegetable oil. The other two are best with a glyphosate based (e.g., Round up or Accord) treatment.
Cut-stump treatments don’t work on frozen wood. So far, that hasn't been a problem, but perhaps winter just arrived in central NY. In the winter you can use a basal bark treatment to kill the standing trees that are less than 6" diameter. With basal bark, only trees that are sprayed will die. This is efficient, but leaves behind skeletons. If you want to collect firewood, you could wait until May to cut the stems, treat the stumps and remove the wood for fuel. Deer will be a problem for the regeneration of oak. Another option is to cut the beech in May - November, treat the stumps, and leave a snarl of stems and branches behind to impede the deer (and you). Each option has advantages and disadvantages. I suspect I've only scratched the surface. The details depend a bit on what else (access, firewood, aesthetics, etc.) you want from your woods.
I've attached a picture of beech bark disease. Your picture shows a condition that I don't typically associate with BBD, but may well be. With BBD you will see the insects as white flecks and the fungal fruiting bodies as a reddish fuzz. The insects and fungus are not apparent throughout the year.
A couple other resources.
Establishing red oak will take some effort. If you have a seed source, look for seedlings and consider what you'll need to do to protect them from deer and voles. Tree tubes are an option, but require some work and maintenance. If you don't have a seed source, or you don't want to wait for the next good seed year, hopeful for seed set, you can buy seedlings from your state forestry agency or the Soil and Water Conservation District. The advantage of planting seedlings is that you'll start right away with seedlings (no waiting), and you can plant them in canopy openings to improve their odds for success. According to Jeff Ward's ForestConnect webinar from spring 2011 (? maybe 2010), the typical acre has the majority of oak value in 50 to 65 trees per acre. This would also be a reasonable number for wildlife objectives. Here is a link to our tree planting bulletin. Here is a link to our natural regeneration bulletin.
what about flaming the bark? I just started this in one section last year, so too early for judging results but your cohorts touted this method as superior.
Great question. Flame will work, but with specific outcomes and circumstances. Flame (nor any) is a universal option for beech control. We don't have extensive data on beech response to flame treatments. The role of flame would be with beech that are about 3 to 7 inches in diameter, as an alternative likely to basal bark treatments. Flame will kill the section of stem above the flame, but won't kill the root system. So, you'll open up the canopy but also likely stimulate root sucker development. I don't have any data on root sucker development following flame treatments. You could flame the big stems and in a year or two foliar spray the sprouts, but then you risk overspray of desirable seedlings. Basal bark will work best if there are few small beech. If there are many small beech, then cut stump of the pole sized (>~ 4 to 6" diameter) and larger beech.
Flame Safety Fact Sheet (attached)
Flame Equipment Fact Sheet (attached)
The safety aspect was what drove me to winter time use, as long as it is warm enough that the propane tank doesn't freeze up. I wanted to kill numerous but selective beech, without risking others I wanted to keep and was afraid the herbicide might travel thru to adjacent beech, so the flame was a great option for me. I'll gauge success in a few years.
I also would like to cut my beech during the winter when I have more time available and was wondering if I left 3-4 ft high stumps could I then come back in the spring and cut them closer to the ground and do a cut stump treatment. This would allow me to remove the firewood now.
You can cut in the winter and re-surface the stumps in the summer. You probably don't need 3' stumps, but that height would make them easier to find and provide a useful stick of firewood. The work I have done with re-surfacing beech stumps varied with time elapsed since initial cutting. A 4 to 6 month window for resurface with glyphsate would likely result in 50% to 60% control of sprouts. Treatment at the time of cutting results in control of up to 85% of sprouts. Sprout control also depends a bit on the abundance of larger diameter stems which disproportionately acquire the active ingredient. All our re-surfaced stumps were killed (i.e., no stump sprouts) and some control of root suckers.
In warm winters, such as we currently have, the unfrozen wood may allow translocation of the glyphosate. Is isn't useful to treat frozen wood.
See the events panel, the February webinar is about forest herbicide treatments. This topic won't specifically addressed, but other aspects might be of interest.