Farmer plants trees to conserve soil, produce lumber
Clear Creek crawls like a snake through a 120-acre property Mike Ehrlich owns with his brother, Gary, just north of Marion.
In recent years, the farmer has taken an interest in preventing creek banks from eroding.
With that intent, he visited the Marion County Conservation District office in Marion to find out if he could get help in improving the tree stand.
Using a cost-share program provided by the conservation service, Ehrlich contracted in April 2017 to have 875 trees planted along the tree line. They were mostly walnut trees but included some oak, black cherry, and pawpaw.
The tree seedlings were a foot to 18 inches tall. They are protected from hot, dry wind and deer damage by 4-foot-tall, perforated, translucent plastic tubes. The tubes also help the trees grow straight. They will remain on the trees until the trunks have expanded to fill them.
A conservationist came out to the farm to take a look at the trees lining the creek. He saw valuable walnut trees that needed thinning out.
“You’ve got a lot of places with junk trees growing,” the conservationist told Ehrlich.
He marked trees that should be eliminated and trees that should be preserved. Ehrlich then made cuts in the trunks of the undesirable trees and treated them with chemical to kill them. They will die right where they are.
“They paid me to do it,” he said.
The conservationist also recommended clearing some areas and planting more desirable trees.
Ehrlich plans to plant again as many trees as before in the cleared areas next spring. He said he may be able to sell some lumber in 20 years, but the seedlings he is planting won’t be big enough to harvest for 60 years.
At age 59, he knows the trees will outlive him, but he hopes the trees’ roots will hold the soil and keep it from eroding.
“I wish I would have gotten started sooner,” he said. “I won’t realize the benefits in my lifetime.”
Last modified Nov. 15, 2018