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Selecting Trees to Grow in Cities: Database Captures Urban Tree Sizes, Growth Rates Across US

In the cramped environs of U.S. cities every inch counts, especially if attempting to make space for nature. But now city planners and urban foresters have a resource to more precisely select tree species whose growth will be a landscaping dream instead of a maintenance nightmare.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station recently published a technical manual and launched the most extensive database available cataloging urban trees with their projected growth tailored to specific geographic regions.

Shaping Forests from the Bottom Up: It's All About Root Disease

The old proverb: “You can’t see the forest for the trees” should have continued with a line saying that it’s even harder to see below the trees. Because seeing under trees, their root system to be exact, is how scientists understand and appreciate the things that will determine what we all see in our future forests. A new publication just released by the US Forest Service seeks to help forest managers recognize important root diseases and provide the best management strategies.

Ordinarily, we depend on decay organisms to break down wood to recycle enormous amounts of above ground materials such as leaves, limbs, and tree trunks. Without these subterranean decomposers, we would find ourselves buried in forest debris. But what makes beneficial decay organisms go bad and attack the root systems of living trees?  In a word, disease.

USDA is a Boon to Business in Boonville, NY; Higher Exports Thanks, in part, to Rural Development Program

Focusing on international markets, renewable energy and a community’s inherent assets, rural businesses find dynamic paths to prosperity.  To see this in action, I headed to Boonville, New York.

Mark Bourgeois was born and raised in Boonville and today is President of CJ Logging Equipment and 3B Timber.  A stable employer in the region, 3B Timer processes softwood trees on-site into utility poles. 3B Timber utilized Rural Development’s Business & Industry (B&I) loan guarantee to expand their operations.  As Mark explained, his company now exports 80% of its poles to Canada, expanding international trade and supporting job creation in the region and state.

FAS Capacity-Building Efforts in Central America Yield Benefits There and at Home

Pablo Chacón, a young Guatemalan farmer who is studying agroforestry at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, can now show the people in his home community how livestock grazing and hardwood forests can co-exist and prosper. Earlier this month, he told me and other Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) visitors to CATIE that the education he gained from his FAS-funded scholarship to CATIE has equipped him to be a change maker.

“CATIE’s research in the tropics shows that degraded lands can be restored using combined forest and pastoral production systems,” Chacón said. “The benefits of trees in pastures are clear: The shade helps reduce stress in animals during the dry season, keeps moisture in the soil and retains the strength of pastures during the dry season.”

The Wonders of Wood Buildings

Trees do plenty of work to sequester carbon on their own, but many forests are not as healthy as they should be due to fire suppression and climate change. This can leave trees vulnerable to large scale insect damage, fire or drought, and much of the carbon stored by forests is lost to the atmosphere as trees die.

The U.S. Forest Service is committed to the storage of carbon using wood products through the green building and wood products strategy. This strategy involves putting people to work in rural communities, enhancing resiliency of our ecosystems, and sequestering carbon by promoting the use of wood products in large building construction.

Managing Forests in the Face of Drought - There is Help!

Drought, especially prolonged or severe drought, can be a major stress in forest ecosystems.  Drought can kill trees directly or indirectly through insect attack or wildfire. Both of which are more likely to occur during drought.

Tree mortality impacts most of the ecosystem services provided by forests, including the amount of wood that grows, how much carbon is captured and stored, the health of critical wildlife habitat, water yield and quality, and even whether it’s safe to pursue recreational activities such as hiking or hunting.

Oregon Conservation Groups Partner with USDA for Results

A small group of conservation enthusiasts gathered at Ralph Duyck’s farm near Forest Grove, Oregon with a shared goal. They wanted to protect water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in and around the Tualatin River, an 83-mile tributary of the Willamette River that runs through Portland.

The group didn’t know how much interest they could attract or how much they could achieve—but that was 2005. Today, the Tualatin Basin Partners for Clean Water’s membership includes more than a dozen cities, counties, conservation districts, and environmental groups.

Giant Sequoia Trees Face "Drying" Times

“A mature Giant Sequoia can use 500-800 gallons of water every day during the summer,” said Anthony Ambrose, a tree biologist at U.C. Berkeley. “That’s a lot of water necessary for just one tree.”

For the first time in at least 125 years, Giant Sequoias in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California are showing significant amounts of “dieback” in their foliage due to several years of drought.

SBIR Grantee's Response to Killer Beetles: SPLAT!

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at USDA offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers SBIR Phase I grants that are limited to $100,000 and a duration of 8 months, and Phase II grants of up to $500,000 and 24 months that are open only to Phase I awardees. Below is the first-hand account of NIFA-funded SBIR research from Agenor Mafra-Neto, President and CEO of ISCA Technologies, Inc.

It might sound like the subject of the lamest B-horror flick ever made, but for pine trees in western North America, it’s a true story—the plant world’s equivalent of a zombie plague that has destroyed an estimated 723 million cubic of timber on more than 17.5 million hectares of forested land.

All on account of a tiny mountain pine beetle (MPB), no larger than a single grain of rice.

Oh Maple Syrup, How I Love Thee. Let me Count the Ways.

Okay, yes it’s Maple Syrup Day, an unofficial holiday, but the day allows us to celebrate and recognize this often underrated commodity. So in honor of this lovely product, here are some interesting tidbits that you may not know.

I use maple syrup on many things; not just pancakes, waffles and French toast, but also in recipes like soups and casseroles, to sweeten granola or oatmeal, even coffee. I’ve used it on ice cream and even snow, on salads and in salad dressings. My own step-father is known to take a shot of maple syrup every now-and-then. It is delightful on its own. Maple syrup can also be used to make maple cream, maple sugar, and maple candy.