Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda
L.) is increasingly grown on intensively managed plantations that yield high growth rates. Wood properties, including specific gravity (SG), change with cambial age, and thus intensively managed trees contain a high proportion of low density corewood when harvested because of reduced rotation lengths. This study was undertaken to develop models of ring-level properties (SG and width) in intensively managed loblolly pine plantations. Ninety-three trees from five stands aged from 24 to 33 years were harvested, and 490 disks were obtained from in between the 5.2-m logs that were cut, and at the merchantable top. The disks were cut into pith-to-bark radial strips that were scanned on an X-ray densitometer, and the resultant data analyzed using non-linear mixed-effects models. The fixed effects of the models, which included cambial age and for some models disk height and ring width, were able to explain 56, 46, 54, 16, and 46 percent of the within-tree variation for ring SG, ring width, latewood SG, earlywood SG, and latewood percent, respectively. To assess implications for wood utilization, a modeled tree was built by using height, diameter, and taper equations and these models were linked with the developed ring SG model to produce a tree properties map. The linked information was also used to generate tree and log SG and proportion of corewood values for different rotation ages. The results from this study are a step towards integrating wood quality models into growth-and-yield modeling systems that are important for loblolly pine plantation management.
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