Don’t kiss your mistletoe-infected trees goodbye

Mistletoe-infected oak branch.  Image: J. O'Brien, USDA-FS, bugwood.org.

Mistletoe-infected oak branch. Image: J. O’Brien, USDA-FS, bugwood.org.

This festive time of the year usually has people in high spirits. And there are some folks who may be in even higher spirits … those who steal a smooch under the mistletoe!

Mistletoe is a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology, and the holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is rooted in England. But there is a dark side to this romance-inspiring plant. Not only is it toxic to humans, it’s also a parasite.

The plant is hemiparisitic, meaning it obtains some resources from its host. In the case of mistletoe, it obtains water and mineral nutrients from the tree it infests, but because it is photosynthetic, it is able to produce its own food. In other words, mistletoe does not rely on its host for 100 percent of what it needs to survive.

But can mistletoe harm a tree? The short answer is not much. Mistletoe can infect more than 110 species of trees, but is not considered a serious pest in North Carolina. When combined with other stress agents, it could result in a general decline in tree health or localized branch mortality. If a mistletoe-infected tree dies, then it was likely affected by other, more serious pests.

So, mistletoe isn’t exactly the kiss of death for a tree, but its presence can be unsightly or contribute to poor tree health. Usually, management is not recommended because not only is it a minor pest, but effective control is very difficult to achieve. The best recommendation is to enjoy it and maybe get a smooch or two from your sweetie during the holidays!

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U.S. Census of Horticulture arriving in mailboxes this winter

Census of Horticulture imageAs millions of Americans venture out to purchase fresh-cut Christmas trees and poinsettias this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is gearing up to survey the producers of those cherished holiday traditions. NASS is conducting the 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties to gather detailed information on horticultural production and sales across the United States.

“The Census of Horticulture includes producers of floriculture, nursery and other specialty crops,” said Dee Webb, state statistician of the NASS North Carolina Field Office. “According to the most recent Census of Agriculture results, nursery and floriculture products were more than a $14.5 billion industry in the United States. This special census is an opportunity for producers to provide detailed information on their industry to help ensure the continued growth and sustainability of horticultural farming.”

Last conducted in 2009, this census will provide the only source of comparable and consistent data at the national and state levels for the industry. NASS will gather information on horticultural activities conducted during 2014, including production of horticultural crops, value of products, square footage used for growing crops, production expenses and more.

Webb said the opportunity to respond to the Census of Horticulture is not something that comes along once a month, or even once a year. “Participation is important because this census is a unique opportunity to provide information that will be used by policymakers, organizations and businesses for the next several years to help make decisions regarding the availability of goods and services, funding, policies and other key issues that affect the industry,” she said.

In December, NASS will mail the census to selected horticultural operations in the United States. For the 2014 Census of Horticulture Specialties, an operation is defined as any place that grew and sold $10,000 or more of horticultural specialty products in 2012, as reported in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Producers can fill out the Census online via a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov, or return their form by mail. Federal law (Title 7, U.S. Code) requires all producers who receive a form to respond and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.

Recipients are required to respond by Feb. 5. NASS will publish the results in December 2015. For more information about the Census of Horticulture, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 919-856-4394.

-Information from USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

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Today’s Topic: Buy firewood locally to prevent spread of invasive insects

 

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

An adult emerald ash borer (Granville County). Image: NCFS.

An adult emerald ash borer (Granville County). Image: NCFS.

When you hear the phrase “Buy local,” it typically refers to food. But folks should be looking for another local product as we get into winter: firewood.

The NCDA&CS encourages people to buy firewood locally because it helps to prevent the spread of three major invasive insect species that have found their way to North Carolina in recent years. The department has been fighting the spread of emerald ash borer, walnut twig beetle and redbay ambrosia beetle.

Originally from Asia, the emerald ash borer has been in the U.S. for a dozen years. It was first detected in North Carolina in 2013. As of this summer, it had been found in Granville, Person, Warren and Vance counties. All four native ash species – pumpkin, Carolina, green and white – can be harmed by the borer. An estimated 2.5 million ash trees in North Carolina are at risk.

Another pest, the walnut twig beetle, carries a fungus that can cause thousand cankers disease in black walnut trees. It was found in Haywood County in 2012.

The third pest, the redbay ambrosia beetle, carries a fungus that can cause laurel wilt. It was first detected in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain in 2011. It’s a threat to redbay and swampbay trees, but also spicebush, sassafras, pondspice and pondberry.

These three pests like to hitch rides on wood. So it is always best to use firewood local to the area instead of bringing it in from somewhere else.

And if you see evidence of damage from any of these insects, contact your county forest ranger. For more information about these harmful insects, click here.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss why buying firewood locally is a good idea.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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News Roundup: Dec. 6-12

News Roundup logoEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Kalettes, Broccoflower And Other Eye-Popping Vegetables For 2015,” WFAE: Does a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale sounds like your vegetable dream come true? Maybe so, if you’re someone who’s crazy for cruciferous vegetables and all the fiber and nutrients they pack in. Meet Kalettes, a hybrid of the two that looks like a small head of purple kale. It arrived in U.S. supermarkets like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods this fall, and is being marketed as “a fresh fusion of sweet and nutty.” It’s not the only new hybrid vegetable that we may be seeing a lot more of in 2015. Kendall College, a culinary and hospitality school in Chicago, predicts that broccoflower, broccolini and rainbow carrots may also leap from the specialty fringes to the mainstream produce aisle, owing to their terrific flavor and good looks. Why now? People are moving away from the comfort food they fell back on during the recession, says Christopher Koetke, vice president of Kendall’s School of Culinary Arts. “People are starting to say OK, I can be a little more adventuresome.” …
  • “China Becoming Most Important Market for US – Grown Tobacco,” Southern Farm Network: For the first time in many years, NC State Economist Dr. Blake Brown sees optimism for the US tobacco producer. Tobacco use in the US has been on the decline for decades, but the advent of e-cigarettes and the up-and-coming heat-not-burn products has breathed new life into tobacco production. Brown sees one other trend to further lend to the optimism: “The other major trend is one that has been around for a while. It’s the growing demand for premium style tobacco in the Asian market. We are seeing combustible cigarette consumption continue to increase there, possibly up to 17% over the next 5 years. Also we are seeing the consumer in those markets consuming more cigarettes and an increasing demand for a premium cigarette. That translates for more demand for premium US tobacco.” And because other export markets for US flue cured tobacco are in decline, China’s importance continues to grow, he says: “We have seen exports of US flue cured tobacco to China surpass those to the EU.” …
  • “Who will be the next generation of farmers?” Richmond County Daily Journal: The average age of the Richmond County farmer is 58. When people in most professions are thinking about pensions, retirement, babysitting grandchildren and winters in Florida; farmers may not be planning to ever stop farming. Some of the most fortunate farm families have younger generations who also love the lifestyle and independence of farming and will take over the family farm. Farm succession remains a difficult family topic and often there is no one willing to continue the farm. Producing food is an essential job, but not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Today, each farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people, increased from 25 people in 1960. …
  • All in All a 2014 a Good Crop Year,” Southern Farm Network: Don Nicholson, Regional Agronomist with North Carolina Department of Ag, oversees one of the most diverse ag regions in the state. He says this year, overall was a good crop year: “We have had issues again with too much rain in spots in the eastern part of my region. Other places had very timely rain to fill out the crops. We have exceptional cotton and corn yields and a good bean yield over all.” This year’s tobacco crop, says Nicholson was something of a marathon: “Tobacco was better than average over all, even with too much rain in the east. It was a good crop in the field but on the light side when it came to weight.” …
  • “North Carolina To End Use Of Gas Chambers In Animal Shelters,” WUNC: In a letter addressed to euthanasia technicians and registered animal shelters in the state, the N.C. Department of Agriculture says the use of gas chambers for euthanizing cats and dogs is no longer acceptable. The letter comes from Dr. Patricia Norris, the new director of the Animal Welfare Section at the Department. “We’re basically clarifying the policy for everybody,” said Norris. North Carolina’s animal euthanasia policy is meant to follow the guidelines of a few different groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Humane Association. While two of the groups (HSUS and AHA) had urged for the end of gas chambers for years, AVMA changed it’s guidelines in 2013. “We’re making sure everybody is complying with the new guidelines,” said Norris. …
  • “Congress puts potatoes on menu for low-income moms,” News & Observer: It’s another political victory for the popular potato. For the first time, low-income women would be able to pay for them with government-subsidized vouchers issued by the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. The potato provision is part of a massive spending bill Congress is expected to approve soon. White potatoes have been excluded from WIC since fruits and vegetables were first allowed under the program in 2009. It’s not that white potatoes themselves aren’t nutritious, but they’re often used to make french fries, which are usually fried or baked in unhealthy fats and oils. The Institute of Medicine had recommended that they be excluded, saying WIC recipients already eat enough white potatoes. The potato industry has aggressively lobbied for inclusion in WIC, saying it’s not as much about sales as the perception that potatoes aren’t as nutritious as other vegetables. Lawmakers from roughly 40 potato-growing states have been pushing for several years to include the potato in the program. …
  • “Hit the Cheese Trail,” Greensboro News & Record: Cheese lovers rejoice. Just like wine lovers, you now can travel a statewide trail to sample new and favorite varieties made in North Carolina. There even is a map online to help you chart your course to farms making farmstead and artisan cheeses from cow, goat or sheep’s milk. About 40 small farmers make and sell cheese across the state, including 11 that make up the N.C. Cheese Trail, which formed in April. …
  • “Grandfathering tobacco innovation gets GOP support,” Winston-Salem Journal: The key to the evolution, if not survival, of the U.S. tobacco industry is its ability to innovate with its product mix, whether snus, electronic cigarettes or the next generation of heat-not-burn traditional cigarettes. Perhaps the foremost example is the manufacturing of the Vuse e-cig product by Reynolds American Inc. at its Tobaccoville plant, where 200 jobs are being created to handle production. …
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Got to Be NC Competition Dining: 2014 Fire on the Rock Champion Chef Michelle Bailey

G2BNC Competition Dining1Once a month we highlight a chef and a recipe from the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining series. This competition faces off two local chefs in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. The chef’s menu is created around a North Carolina ingredient that is revealed at noon on the day of the competition. This secret ingredient must be used in each of three courses, appetizer, entree and dessert. The competition is held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington. The Final Fire competition pits the winners of each regional competition against each other.

This month, we are featuring Chef Michelle Bailey of Seasons Restaurant at Highland Lake Inn and Resort in Flat Rock. Bailey was the 2014 winner of the Fire on the Rock competition. She describes her cooking style as “refined American cuisine utilizing local and/or  sustainably sourced ingredients with a focus on traditional Southern techniques and international flavor profiles.”

Final Fire round 1 winners Chef Michelle Bailey and her team.

Final Fire round 1 winners Chef Michelle Bailey and her team.

Bailey competed against Fire on the Dock Champion Antoine Murray of Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington in the first round of Final Fire last month in Raleigh. The secret ingredients for the battle were Piedmont Candy Co. Peppermint Puffs and Certified Angus Beef Brand Ribeye. Bailey went on to compete the next evening against Fire in the City Champion Jon Fortes where Fortes took the win.

The recipe below is from the first battle of Final Fire and was one of the highest scoring dishes for Bailey.

 Bacon and Peppermint Buttermilk Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 10 egg yolks, preferably local
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • pinch kosher salt
  • ¾ cup bacon, rendered until crisp, drained, chopped
  • ¾ cup Piedmont Candy Co. peppermint puffs, crushed

Instructions:

1. Combine the cream and 1 cup of the sugar in a large, heavy saucepot and bring to a gentle simmer.
2. Combine remaining ¼ cup of sugar with the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Slowly temper the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly and taking care not to curdle the eggs.
4. Pour the egg/cream mixture back into the saucepot and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Cook until the sauce becomes think enough to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Strain the mixture and then whisk in the buttermilk and salt. Chill over an ice bath and cool completely. Ideally, overnight in the refrigerator.
6. Process the cold custard according to the manufacturer’s directions on your ice cream maker.
7. Once ice cream has thickened and achieved a smooth creamy texture, remove from the machine and fold in the bacon and peppermint candies.
8. Cover and store in the freezer at least 6 hours prior to serving.

Bacon Peppermint Ice Cream

Course Five: Chocolate, Mushroom & Stout Cake, Torched Pink Peppercorn Marshmallow Fluff, Piedmont Candy Co. Peppermint & Nueske’s Bacon Buttermilk Ice Cream, Salted Caramel, Crisp Peppermint Meringues, Cherry & Peppermint Coulis

Tickets to attend the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series event make great gifts and can be ordered online at http://www.competitiondining.com/gift-certificates.

 

 

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Today’s Topic: Cultivating young people’s interest in agriculture

 

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The average age of North Carolina farmers has continued to increase and now stands at 58.9, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. That’s a concern because the world’s population will reach 9 billion people by the year 2050, and it’s going to take farmers to feed them. We’re going to have to have a lot of youth in agriculture and agribusiness to meet that need, Commissioner Troxler tells Rhonda.

The state has amazing land-grant universities in N.C. State and N.C. A&T State, and they do a wonderful job of educating students about agriculture. But, Troxler says, we have to cultivate that interest early, before students make their college choice.

Last month, Commissioner Troxler attended an event at Northside High School in Beaufort County aimed at getting young folks interested in agriculture, and about 500 students were there. Programs such as FFA and 4-H also are helping to generate interest in agriculture. And the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agri-Science in Jamesville is helping to grow that interest, too.

North Carolina has more than 50,000 farms of all shapes and sizes, and they all are needed, the Commissioner says. There’s a need for new generations to take up farming when current farmers retire.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the importance of attracting young people to careers in agriculture.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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News Roundup: Nov. 27-Dec. 5

News Roundup logoEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Extension mission focus on farms,” Wilmington Star-News: Mention the words cooperative extension today and master gardeners, 4-H Clubs or great free advice may come to mind. Marking 100 years of existence this year, the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service delivers these services and a lot more. Advice for consumers and farmers have been part of the organization for a century, long before stormwater control and other programs emerged in recent years. The seeds for the cooperative extension trace back to Abraham Lincoln. The Morrill Act of 1862 set the stage for a national network of land-grant institutions including N.C. State and N.C. A&T. These schools created agricultural experiment stations. The research results were then shared with farmers. Previously, farmers had to rely on fertilizer sales people for advice. …
  • “Christmas trees big business in N.C. mountains,” Wilmington Star-News: Christmas trees grown in North Carolina are already well on their way to stores and tree stands across the country. North Carolina ranks second in the nation behind Oregon in Christmas tree production, with trees grown mostly in the state’s mountains providing about 4 million trees worth about $1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the mountains of Mitchell County, Rodney Buchanan’s family tree farm starts preparing for the holiday in March and begins cutting trees in mid-November. He estimates his Buck’s Tree Farm will provide 50,000 Fraser firs to Boy Scout and church tree lots and other small operations. …
  • “Checking for the right price at the cash register,” WGHP: State inspectors are making sure consumers are getting the prices promised in stores this holiday season. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services checks prices on millions of items throughout the year, said Standards Inspector II Michael Beal. “We do a lot more seasonal items. Hams, turkeys, seasonal candies. Items the store typically does not carry throughout the year in large quantities,” he explained. Beal added, “We’re going in and we’re doing price audits. Checking for prices on the shelf. Making sure it matches on the shelf what it rings up for you.” He said most mistakes they find are due to a mechanical error, such as a broken scale, or to human error, such as a sale sign posted in the wrong location. “Nine times out of 10, these stores want you to tell them so they can get it fixed,” he pointed out. “Them deliberately ringing up the wrong prices is rare.” …
  • “North Carolina enacts Venus flytrap theft laws: How big is the problem, really?” WUNC: Did you know that picking a Venus Flytrap in North Carolina can now land you two years in prison? The law, enacted earlier this week, is meant to protect the Venus Flytrap, a rare carnivorous plant that only grows in the wild in swamps near Wilmington. It’s estimated that there are only 35,000 plants remaining in the wild. The plant’s numbers have dwindled in part because of people stealing them from protected lands. …
  • “U.S. continues to “chew” on excess peanut supplies,” Southeast Farm Press: The U.S. peanut market continues to wrestle against large production numbers from 2012, as producers wrap up harvesting this year’s crop, says John Michael Riley, Mississippi State University Extension economist. “The U.S. continues to chew on a large production number from 2012,” said Riley at this year’s Southern Region Outlook Conference in Atlanta. “We definitely cut back on the number of acres in 2013. And while we do have a buildup of stocks that we’re trying to work through, we actually saw an increase in acres this past year. So despite a lower yield in 2014, production could be about where it was last year.” By the first week of November, nearly 80 percent of the 2014 U.S. peanut crop had been harvested. In late October, 55 percent of the peanut crop was reported in good to excellent condition, about seven percentage points below the same time last year.
  • Wake Forest, Lowes Foods collaborate on analysis,” Winston-Salem Journal: Consumers at 10 Lowes Foods stores, including two in Forsyth County, are doing more than just grocery shopping as they walk down the aisles. Their shopping behavior is being evaluated in real time – which aisles they walk down, which product categories they linger over – in an analytical partnership involving the Winston-Salem grocer, a local RockTenn division and Wake Forest University School of Business students. The goal is giving the grocer and the display manufacturer better insight into shopping habits, while providing students with valuable real-world analytical experience, said Roger Beahm, executive director of the business school’s Center for Retail Innovation. …
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Flavor, NC: Old Mill of Guilford

Flavor NCTwice a month we take a look at local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we highlight episode eight from the first season, in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights the Old Mill of Guilford in Oak Ridge and J. Peppers Southern Grille in Kernersville.

In this episode Lisa visits Old Mill of Guilford where “grits are ground the old-fashioned way.” This mill is one of the oldest continuously-operating grist mills in the state. It has been providing all-natural, stone-ground grain since 1767.  This episode shows how grain is brought in from the farm, ground on the stone and then packaged for sale.

Lisa then visits Chef John Jones of J. Pepper’s Southern Grille in Kernersville to learn how Old Mill grits are used in fried grit cakes. J. Peppers features traditional Southern fare with locally sourced meats, seafood and produce. Along with the grit cakes, Lisa and Chef Jones prepare fried oyster salad, Old Mill gingerbread with Grand Marnier and peaches, and blueberry buttermilk pancakes.  Below is the recipe for fried grit cakes.

Grit Cakes

  • 2 cups yellow grits
  • 2 cups white grits
  • 3 cups chicken and/or vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion power

Method:
Bring stock, cream and spices to a boil. Slowly add grits and stir well. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, adding more cream if grits become too thick. Pour into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Slice chilled grits and pan or deep fry. If pan frying, dredge sliced grits in flour before frying.

 

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Navy using part of Bladen Lakes State Forest for training

Trees in Bladen Lakes State Forest

The Navy has a three-year agreement with the N.C. Forest Service to conduct training exercises on a portion of Bladen Lakes State Forest.

The N.C. Forest Service has a long history of working with its military partners around the state. That relationship took an additional step forward when the NCFS and the U.S. Navy came to a three-year agreement on using part of Bladen Lakes State Forest for military training exercises.

“I want to thank all those who were involved in the process of bringing this agreement to a successful completion,” said Michael Chesnutt, Bladen Lakes State Forest supervisor. “I am pleased the North Carolina Forest Service is able to work with the military to provide another place in which to train our warriors.”

The Navy is training on about 700 acres of land located at the southernmost edge of the forest, adjacent to the north bank of the Cape Fear River near Singletary Lake. This area is located on the 4,686-acre portion of the forest, between N.C. Highway 53 and the Cape Fear River. The forest contains about 32,800 acres in total.

“The Bladen Lakes State Forest is a vital component to our training continuum. No other location affords us the ability to conduct riverine training in such a realistic, pristine environment,” said Fred Sizemore, assistant director for the Center for Security Forces Learning Site Camp Lejeune. “With limited infrastructure, isolated locations and rugged terrain, Bladen Lakes State Forest is an ideal location for coastal riverine training.”

Military training should not have impact on land, other activities in forest

Citizens concerned that the forest will lose its pristine nature should not worry, as the Navy agreed to leave the area as they found it. The Navy conducts low-impact ground training exercises such as insertion and extraction of ground forces, mock ambushes, patrolling, medical evacuations and mock treatments. Although they use blank munitions during training, pyrotechnics, non-lethal training ammunition and smoke grenades must be deemed safe and approved for use by the NCFS. In other words, the use of these devices must be approved for times when they are not likely to cause a fire.

“We must be able to accomplish our training mission effectively without disrupting the environment,” said Larry McFarland, executive director of the Center for Security Forces. “The U.S. Navy has a strong track record of environmental stewardship and it’s important we continue that tradition. The local users of the forest must be considered and successfully communicated with as we conduct training and carry out this mission.”

The Navy conducts no more than eight nine-day training sessions per year. However, the Navy will not conduct training in Bladen Lakes State Forest April 1-May 20 and Sept. 15-Jan. 1 to allow for turkey and deer hunting seasons.

Chesnutt also would like to assure the forest’s various user groups that the ongoing military operations should in no way adversely affect their activities. “While Bladen Lakes State Forest’s primary function is to demonstrate the benefits of good forest management, we also have a lot of folks who come here for a variety of recreational activities,” he said. “One of our goals as a demonstration forest is to show how you can manage your forest for a variety of goals, including recreation and, in this case, military training.”

Bladen Lakes State Forest has more than 180 miles of trails and paths for use by the public, including horseback riding and some limited camping. These activities all require a special-use permit, which can be obtained for free at the office Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about Bladen Lakes State Forest, call 910-588-4964 or email bladenlakessf.ncfs@ncagr.gov.

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Today’s Topic: Bumper seed crop ensures future trees

 

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

Oak acorns are planted at the N.C. Forest Service Nursery.

This year was a bumper crop for tree seed, including these overcup oak acorns, being planted at a N.C. Forest Service nursery.

In the afterglow of Thanksgiving, your refrigerator or freezer may be overflowing with leftovers from the feast. But turkey and dressing aren’t the only things that were put into cold storage lately. Seeds from trees across the state have hit the ground in record amounts this fall. And squirrels weren’t the only ones looking for it.  After collecting from the bumper crop, the N.C. Forest Service was able to cold-store tree seeds for use in years to come.

Each year, N.C. Forest Service staff members collect the seed used to grow more than 50 species of tree seedlings for the agency’s nursery program. These native seedlings are then sold to landowners at low cost for a variety of purposes, such as reforestation, wetlands mitigation, aesthetic improvement and wildlife habitat creation.

“While trees make some seed almost every year, a crop of this size only occurs about every four or five years,” says James West, head of the NCFS Nursery and Tree Improvement Program. “Things have to be just right when it comes to rain, temperatures and wind events. If one of those parameters is off, the seed yield is lower.”

This fall has proven to be a bumper crop year for most species across the state, West says. The weather conditions for the last two years have been favorable for trees to produce seed such as acorns, drupes and cones. In some species, seed production can take two years to complete.

This year’s heavy seed crop has enabled the nursery staff to process seeds from many species and prepare them for long-term storage. This will ensure that seedlings will be available to North Carolina landowners in future years when tree seed may not be as plentiful.

Landowners interested in planting trees this winter or spring may order their seedlings by calling 1-888-NCTREES or visiting http://nc-forestry.stores.yahoo.net.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the crop of tree seed and learn more about the N.C. Forest Service’s nursery program.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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