Stump Culture: Coppice for Conifers
Stump culture is a type of conifer tree harvesting that is closely related to the practice of coppicing. In coppice systems, trees are cut down to stumps, and the tree regenerates from the roots. Unlike deciduous trees, conifers cannot readily be coppiced. However, stump culture is a similar method of preserving the root system of the tree and allowing it to regenerate. Commonly used on Christmas tree farms in British Columbia, this system saves money on seedlings and reduces the time between harvests by up to three years. It is suitable for a number of native mast-producing conifer species, including firs, pines, and spruces.
Instead of cutting the tree down nearly to the ground, stump culture practitioners leave the bottom layer or two of branches. This preserves the health of the roots and allows the branches to continue growing. One of the branches is eventually selected to form the leader of a new tree. Like well-managed coppiced trees, which can produce steadily for hundreds of years (the oldest known coppiced trees are over 1000 years old), stump culture allows trees to produce continuously for many years. In British Columbia, some stumps have produced a tree every 5 years for more than 60 years.
In British Columbia, stump culture Christmas trees and greenery are often produced in combination with cattle in silvopasture agroforestry systems, or combined with shade loving floral greens such as Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Bear-grass (Xerophyllum tenax), Falsebox (Pachistima myrsintes), Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum), Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant), and Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum). These are just a few of the alternative crops suitable to grow in agroforestry systems.