Stand establishment techniques involving multiple herbicide applications are commonly used on industrial pine (Pinus spp.) plantations, raising concern over potential effects on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) forage production. We tested effects of stand establishment intensity on deer forage in 1–5-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations (n = 4) in the East Gulf Coastal Plain of Mississippi using forage biomass and 4 measures of nutritional carrying capacity that reflected crude protein or digestible energy requirements for body maintenance and lactation. We also assessed whether forage biomass combined with a deer use rating effectively indexed nutritional carrying capacity. Treatments were combinations of mechanical site preparation, chemical site preparation (CSP), and herbaceous weed control (HWC). Total forage biomass and forage biomass of grasses and forbs were reduced by broadcast HWC. Forage biomass of vines was reduced both by CSP and by multiple broadcast HWC applications. Maintenance-level carrying capacity estimates were reduced by broadcast HWC; lactation-level estimates were higher in moderate-intensity treatments. We believe the inherently low fertility of this region makes high-quality forage production a more important management priority than increasing forage quantity. Chemical or chemical and mechanical site preparation combined with banded HWC provided the best option for providing both forage quality and quantity in open-canopied, intensively managed pine plantations. Biomass-based indices may be suitable for indexing protein-based maintenance-level carrying capacity in this region, but our results indicated they were not useful for indexing other carrying capacity estimates.
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Vol. 73 • No. 4