Forest Service’s Nursery Program provides quality seedlings that helps improve tree quality.

by | Sep 13, 2023

Summary: The N.C. Forest Service’s Nursery and Tree Improvement Program works to improve tree quality in North Carolina and also produces high quality tree stock for residents interested in replanting their land.


Today’s Topic with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis 

  • Part of the beauty of North Carolina is the lush greenness of our tree canopy.
  • Trees are not only beautiful, but they are a source of income for many forest owners who manage their timber holdings and replant their land after harvest.
  • The N.C. Forest Service works to improve the quality of select high-value tree species that benefit forest owners and also ensure the availability of seedlings.
  • It’s pretty interesting work.
  • Earlier this year we talked about the annual Forest Service seedling sale, but I thought listeners might be interested in some of the background behind these efforts.
  • The Nursery Program plans, grows, sells and distributes the annual seedling crop, while the Tree Improvement Program works to improve select tree species that are of high economic value to woodland owners.
  • That includes such species as loblolly pine, longleaf pine, shortleaf pine, Eastern white pine, Atlantic white cedar and Fraser fir.
  • An average of 16 million seedlings are produced each year, which means the Nursery Program produces enough tree seedlings to plant more than 30,000 acres of land each year.
  • The long-term efforts of the Tree Improvement program have resulted in dramatic increases in volume growth, disease resistance and physical properties of these species.
  • An excellent example of the genetic gains made by the Tree Improvement Program is the reduced amount of time it takes to grow a commercially mature stand of loblolly pine.
  • That has dropped from 45 to 50 years to 25 or 30 years, which is significant.
  • The Forest Service operates two nurseries to support these programs. One is in the east and one is in the west.
  • Claridge Nursery is in Goldsboro and Linville River Nursery is located just outside of Crossnore in western North Carolina
  • They both offer bare root and container grown products.
  • Claridge produces more than 50 species of conifers, hardwoods and native grasses annually.
  • Linville River Nursery focuses on Christmas tree seedlings.
  • As part of the process, NCFS district and county staff collect more than 50,000 pounds of hardwood seeds from across the state.
  • Those seeds go to Claridge where they are cleaned, processed and then go to the Nursery Program for planting.
  • To begin the seedlings’ journey, a large conveyor belt assists staff with production.
  • Seedling trays are loaded onto the belt and they pass through the tray filler which dumps potting soil into the individual cells.
  • Staff are lined up along both sides of the belt between the sowing head and the top dresser to ensure each cell receives a seed.
  • The trays then move through a top dresser, where sawdust is added to cover the seed.
    Finally, the trays enter the water tunnel where they receive a splash of water to help the contents settle into the tray cell.
  • You realize the importance of the conveyor belt when you stop and think they are producing roughly 5.3 million individual seedling cells in a short period time.
  • The growing season runs from May through mid-October.
  • I am proud of the work the Forest Service does in helping forest owners with their investment.