8 Forest Farming Practices

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Bee Venom

Bee venom is perhaps the least known, and possibly most controversial, product from the hive, although its therapeutic uses probably date back at least to Greek and Roman times (Mraz, 1995). There is some indication that bee venom therapy is helpful to sufferers of such illnesses as rheumatic fever, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, and glaucoma (Lee & Lee, 1995; Mraz, 1995) and has been prescribed by doctors in Western and Eastern Europe, and in China. It does involve allowing bees to sting particular trigger points on the body, and may not appeal to everyone, but there are elements in the venom that apparently ease particular kinds of pain.

Bee Pollen

Bee pollen is the final potential product from beehives, but certainly not the least. Of the basic elements in the human body, from amino acids to enzymes to hormones, no other food contains all of them except bee pollen. It has been used as a sports supplement, but can also be used to treat disease, increase working capacity, and diminish tiredness. The US Government is currently studying the use of bee pollen as a treatment to prevent or reduce allergenic reactions (Lee & Lee, 1995).

Beekeeping Economics
For centuries, people have found bee colonies fascinating as well as profitable in both food products and economic value. Many people enjoy watching the dynamics of the beehive's social structure and the bees' complex communication system (the "dances") for foraging and managing the hive. Honey and beeswax are the best known and used of the honeybees’ products. The USDA has supported the price of honey through a Federal price support program until recently, but those subsidies were cut in the 1995 Farm Bill. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1949 set honey prices between 60 and 90 percent of parity in what was intended to be permanent legislation and which remained in effect at least through 1985. Since initiation of the latter legislation, the support price level has been approximately 60% of parity and beekeepers have been assisted through local Farm Services Administration (FSA) (formerly Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS)) offices. The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) was the agency responsible for purchasing honey under this agreement (Jones, 1985).

Getting started in beekeeping is not expensive for the hive or hives and the bees, but the equipment for extracting honey can be costly. A beginner's outfit can be obtained for about $110.00. This includes not only hive components but also includes instructions on raising honeybees and basic management equipment. The bees themselves, usually ordered by weight, come with a queen and cost about $66-77/kg ($30-$35/lb), depending on postage rates from point of origin to destination. Currently, the most popular honeybees are the Italian bees, which are sweet-tempered and good honey producers. They are, however, susceptible to mite infestation. Two other common varieties are Carniolan and Bugfast, both of which are more resistant to mites, but which are not as easy to manage nor are they as productive as the Italian bees. The beginner is faced with trade-offs between the issues of productivity versus mite resistance. Extracting equipment ranges from about $250 for a small, hand-cranked unit to $825 for state-of-the-art that holds up to 12 frames and extracts from both frame sides automatically. There is a good second-hand market for honey extraction equipment, but novice beekeepers should be wary of second-hand hive structures, because of the potential danger of mite or other insect or disease transmission.

Beehives are transportable and can be placed in a field, orchard or forest at different times throughout the growing season to maximize productivity near active sources of nectar. It is probably wise not to move the beehives too frequently, and as long as the honeybees appear to be healthy, it may also be wise to minimize "working" them. It is important to develop a sense of "normal" activity and hive health in a new hive, so that a sudden decline in activity or productivity would be obvious, and protective measures could be taken in a timely manner.

The value of honey production remained virtually the same through the 1970s, and average yields per hive fluctuated around 22 kg (50 lbs), although individual areas (i.e., Hawaii) may have produced significantly more or less than the average. The average price of honey was about $0.37/kg ($0.17 per pound) in 1970, $1.38/kg ($0.63 per pound) in 1981, and at least $6.60/kg ($3 per pound) in 1996 (Fox, 1997). Honey and beeswax prices have increased steadily since 1970 (Jones, 1985).

Although at present only a very small number of producers are in honey production as a full time business, with the current interest in natural foods and health foods, bee pollen, royal jelly and some of the other bee products are becoming more popular, as are fruit flavored and other "specialty" honeys. As a result of the problems with tracheal mites, it is estimated that there has been a loss of from five to eight billion dollars in the bee product industry in 1995-1996. Much of this value is for the actual products, but a significant portion of it is in lost fruit or vegetable crop production that is pollination-dependent.

Honeybees are superlative pollinators of flowering plants. Studies conducted on the integration of bee and tree management are largely from the tropics where they have been directed toward providing additional income and resource options through agroforestry and forest farming for people in developing nations (e.g., Loneragan, 1979; Hernandez & Abud, 1987; Park, 1987; Svenson, 1992). Similar efforts for temperate zone regions are warranted, especially in view of the forest land ownership patterns in much of the south, eastern and central parts of the United States. Forest management activities that would favor maple syrup or medicinal plant production often would also improve the foraging options for honeybees. Given the economic impact of tracheal mites on the survival and health of managed and feral populations of honeybees, it is imperative to continue seeking solutions for these problems.

There are numerous options for forest farming. Many are regionally or locally specific, arising from particular characteristics of forest and market systems. Existing special forest product industries are good indicators of the potential for forest farming opportunities in a particular region, together with signals of impending scarcity of specific wild plants, or expanding domestic and international markets. The floral greens industry in the Pacific northwest, for example, is expanding such that traditional gathering methods may be supplemented by more intensive management practices, including active cultivation of certain decorative plants. Similarly, markets for numerous medicinal herbs are rapidly increasing in some cases for native forest plants that are over-harvested and becoming rare. These conditions create opportunities for forest owners to learn to cultivate and market numerous forest food, medicinal and ornamental products on a profitable basis. In addition, consumer tastes and demands for “new” products continually emerge as concerns about our personal and environmental health affect our purchasing patterns. Various edible mushrooms, bee products, materials for craft making, aromatic oils, fruits and nuts and other specialty items rotate into favor with consumers that may be supplied through forest farming. By anticipating these trends and learning how to manage forest resources to serve such markets on a continuous basis, forest owners stand to improve the value of their standing tree stock while generating a dependable cash flow.

There are millions of hectares of privately owned forest lands in North America which could be managed for the production of one or more specialty forest products. Management for many medicinal herbs and for most of the wood-based exotic mushrooms may require disturbance of the forest floor, either by scarification, minimal cultivation, and/or by prescribed burning. Management for many medicinal plants, exotic mushrooms, bee products and maple syrup production involves manipulation of the forest canopy, either by crop tree release, timber stand improvement, or thinning to achieve the 70-90% shade for ground crops or to open space around tree crowns, enabling them to grow fuller and deeper for the production of photosynthate or flowers. Markets for honey and other bee products, maple syrup, and some botanicals are well established and stable, if not growing. Markets for other medicinals, floral greens, and exotic mushrooms are expanding. Basic production information is available to a greater or lesser extent for all of the products indicated here, but more research on product nutrient demands, production methods, and preparation of products (drying, dyeing, etc.) for market is needed. Research is also needed on the nutritional and medicinal values of the edible products. It is important that these forest farmed products remain on a small scale, because it is easier to manage quality and have minimal impact on the forested ecosystem in small scale production. Also, if forest landowners and farmers in rural areas are to achieve maximum economic benefit from such enterprises, it will be easier to do that if they are not in competition with agribusinesses. Remaining at a small scale may also encourage county-wide or regional cooperatives, where many producers can pool their products for a common market.

Forest farming offers benefits on several levels. Producing one or more of the options indicated can provide supplemental income to a family's farm economy and may be able to yield significant cash flow at times of the year when agricultural crops may not be salable (e.g., maple syrup). Harvesting non-timber products from a forested ecosystem leaves the bulk of the forest intact over many years, providing all the intangible environmental benefits that are becoming increasingly important, including protection of our watersheds for a continuously adequate supply of clean water, protection of forest soil resources from erosion, and varied habitat for biological diversity within the forested areas, as well as the continual production of oxygen, physical barriers to inclement climatic forces, amelioration of extreme temperature and moisture conditions, and habitat for wildlife. Annual income from forest farming and regular cash flow may enable families to remain on small family farms, support local economies and help develop stable rural areas.

APPENDIX 8-1A: Forest Plants Used as Root Drugs, Their General Habitat Characteristics and Native Range†
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) - rich, moist soil in hardwood forests from Maine to Minnesota southward to the mountains of northern Georgia and Arkansas.

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa Nutt.) - shade of rich woods from Maine to Wisconsin, south to Georgia and Missouri.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) - cool, moist, rich deciduous woods from southern New York and New Jersey to northern Florida, west to east Texas, and north to Wisconsin and southern Canada.

Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides Michx.) - deep rich loam of shady woods from New Brunswick to South Carolina westward to Nebraska.

Canada moonseed (Menispermum canadense) - along streams in woods, climbing over bushes, from Canada to Georgia and Arkansas.

Canada snakeroot (Asarum canadense) - rich woods from Canada south to North Carolina and Kansas.

Crane’s bill (Geranium maculatum) - open woods from Newfoundland to Manitoba, south to Georgia and Missouri.


†Information sources: 1) Henkel, Alice, 1907. American Root Drugs. US Department of Agriculture. Bureau of Plant Industry Bulletin No. 107. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., and 2) Foster, Steven, 1993. Herbal Renaissance. Gibbs-Smith Publisher, Salt Lake City.
Crawley root (Corallorhiza odontorhiza Nutt.) - rich shady woods with an abundance of leaf mold from Maine to Florida, west to Michigan and Missouri.

Culver’s root (Veronica virginica) - moist rich woods, mountain valleys and thickets from British Columbia south to Alabama, Missouri and Nebraska .

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) - high open woods, hillsides or bluffs offering natural drainage from southern New York to Minnesota and western Ontario, south to Georgia and Missouri.

Golden thread (Coptis trifolia Salish.)- damp mossy woods and bogs from Canada and Alaska south to Maryland and Minnesota.

Indian physic (Porteranthus trifoliatus Britton.)- rich woods from NewYork to Michigan.

Lady’s slipper (Cypripedium hirsutum Mill. and Cypripedium parviflorum Salish.)- deep shady woods and thickets from Nova Scotia to Alabama and west to Missouri, Washington and British Columbia.

Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas Schott and Gray. and Dryopteris marginalis A. Gray. ) - rocky woods from Canada to the Rocky Mountains and Arizona.

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)- low woods from W. Quebec to Minnesota south to Florida and Texas.

Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium Pursh.) - woods in rich soil among rocks from Colorado to the Pacific Ocean, especially Oregon and N. California.

Pinkroot (Spigelia marilandica) - rich woods from New Jersey to Florida, west to Texas and Wisconsin, principally in the southern states.

Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa) - pine woods; dry, sandy or gravelly soil usually along banks of streams from Ontario and Maine to Minnesota, south to Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Purple coneflower (Echinaecea purpurea (L.) Moench )- dry, open well-drained woods centered in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Queen of the meadow (Eupatorium purpureum)- dry woods from Canada to Florida and Texas.

Seneca snakeroot (Polygala senega)- rocky woods and hillsides from New Brunswick and western New England to Minnesota and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, south along the Allegheny mountains to North Carolina and Missouri.

Serpentaria (Aristolochia serpentaria and Aristolochia reticulata Nutt.) - rich woods from Connecticut to Michigan and south along the Alleghenies; southwestern states along riverbanks.

Stone root (Collinsonia canadensis) - moist shady woods from Maine to Wisconsin south

to Florida and Kansas.

Trillium (Trillium erectum) - damp, rich, shady woods from Canada south to Tennessee and Missouri.

Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla Pers.) - rich shady woods from New York to Virginia and westward to Wisconsin.

Unicorn root (star wart) (Chamaelirium luteum A. Gray.) - open woods from Massachusetts to Michigan, south to Florida and Arkansas.

Veratrum (American Hellebore) (Veratrum viride Ait.) - rich, wet woods and swamps from Canada, Alaska and Minnesota south to Georgia.

Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria and Aristolochia reticulata Nutt.) - woods.

Wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) - rich, moist woods from Newfoundland west to Manitoba and south to North Carolina and Missouri.

Wild turnip (Arisaema triphyllum Torr.) - moist woods from Canada to Florida and westward to Kansas and Minnesota.

Yellow jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens Ait. f.) - woods, stream banks and thickets in the South from eastern Virginia to Florida and Texas, south to Mexico.

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Figure Captions

(Chapter 8)
Fig. 8-1. Chanterelle mushrooms.

Fig. 8-2. Oyster mushroom (photograph courtesy of George Vaughn).

Fig. 8-3. Shiitake mushrooms.

Fig. 8-4. King stropharia mushrooms (photograph courtesy of George Vaughn).

Fig. 8-5. Reishi mushroom (photograph courtesy of George Vaughn).

Fig. 8-6. Honeybees with queen.

Fig. 8-7. Bee-pollinated hardwoods.

Fig. 8-8. Beehive products (pollen, royal jelly, propolis).

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