By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

A sculpture of DNA among the trees. Photo credit: Aras Bilgen, Flickr Creative Commons
A sculpture of DNA among the trees. Photo credit: Aras Bilgen, Flickr Creative Commons

This week, the closest contest of last November’s election – the GMO labeling initiative – was finally put to rest after a recount.  The measure ultimately failed by a tiny margin, but it did a lot to put GMO’s into the public spotlight. Of course, the ballot measure had to do with food labeling, not trees, but it got me thinking that it might be worth looking at how GMOs relate to forestry.

What is a GMO?

In case you were not following along during election season, let’s start with a definition. A GMO is an organism whose genes have been directly altered by humans, in a laboratory, through genetic engineering within individual cells. GMO methods can be used to modify an organism’s own DNA or to insert DNA from another organism. The modified cells then are regenerated into whole organisms. Reasons for doing this might be to improve crop productivity, disease resistance, the nutritional yield of food plants, or resistance to herbicides to facilitate weed control. From the technology itself to the ways that GMO might be used in society, it quickly becomes obvious why GMOs can be very controversial.

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West of Philomath.  Image: Liz Cole
West of Philomath. Image: Liz Cole

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

While most residents of the Willamette Valley and Cascades foothills experienced unseasonably cold temperature in mid November, residents and landowners in the central Coast Range endured a serious ice storm. This was not a region-wide storm, but sure packed a punch in certain areas, with some people saying the damage caused may be as bad as or worse than that caused by the infamous Columbus Day Storm. I have not heard of any additional damage from a freezing rain event on December 1.

The main area affected is centered around Blodgett and Burnt Woods, stretching north through Kings Valley into Polk County and south to the flanks of Marys Peak. The McDonald Forest was shut down for nearly a week due to falling ice, limbs and whole trees, closing roads throughout the research forest and creating hazards to workers and recreationists. Crews and equipment are working to reopen forest roads throughout the area. Continue reading

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn & Polk Counties

Please help welcome a new class of Master Woodland Managers. The Master Woodland Manager Class of 2014, which  has 17 members from communities throughout Benton, Linn and Polk Counties, graduated in November, joining several dozen volunteers from earlier trainings, ready to put their forestland management expertise to work as volunteers in their communities along with the OSU Extension Service.

 

Mid Valley MWM Class of 2014
Mid Valley MWM Class of 2014

Master Woodland Managers are qualified local family woodland owners who receive specialized training from OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension to improve their abilities as land managers and as community leaders. The purpose of the Master Woodland Manager program is to provide a core of trained volunteers that help OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension serve local communities and be a resource to help inform other woodland owners on ways to take care of their land.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Remember those Magic 8 balls where you would ask a question, shake the ball, and get an answer? I wish life were that simple.

Extension agents get a lot of questions. Some say we are notorious for always answering with “well, it depends.” As an Extension agent I’m as guilty as anyone of using “it depends”, and not because I want to dodge your question. Usually there is more than one answer; more information is needed; and ultimately, you are the one who will be able to answer your own question after more a more thorough evaluation. Here is a sampling of inquiries I’ve received by phone, email, or Ask an Expert over the past few weeks, to illustrate this. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Our tour hosts (left) with local Extension forestry agent Paul Oester

Last week I traveled to sunny Eastern Oregon for the OSU Extension Forestry team’s annual planning meeting. To kick things off, our group spent an afternoon with Tom and Cindy Beechinor, who are active forest landowners, Master Woodland Managers, and dedicated Extension supporters in the Blue Mountains above the town of Milton-Freewater. We toured the family’s 640-acre property and learned much about how they care for their land and some of the challenges they face. Some observations: Continue reading

Mist nets are set up in the pre-dawn light where birds move around during normal feeding activities
Mist nets are set up in the pre-dawn light where birds move around during normal feeding activities

 

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn & Polk Counties

I often try to write stories that make a connection between the birds you find in a place and the habitat conditions there. Because habitat is something we can create or alter by our forest practices, this illustrates an opportunity for interested landowners to manage their properties to improve woodland habitat conditions for particular birds. While we focus on birds, it is an illustration that applies to all woodland fauna. Animals tend to be quite responsive to habitat conditions.

Birds are fun, abundant and easy to observe by watching and listening, which makes them a good group of animals for landowners to key in on. In fact, lots of what we know about birds, and how they use different places (migratory arrivals and departure, where the feed and nest) has been gained through careful observation.

But capturing and banding birds is another important tool available to researchers that lets them add another layer of information. By capturing birds, we can learn about their general condition (weight, fat reserves) gender and age distribution, that gives insight on things such as general health or their readiness for breeding or migration. And when lucky enough to recapture a banded bird, we learn valuable details about how they have moved and fared in the time between captures. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties, and Paul Wilson & Linda Farris, Columbia County Master Woodland Managers

Flowering currant seedlings awaiting transplant. Photo: Paul Wilson
Flowering currant seedlings awaiting transplant. Photo: Paul Wilson

When Paul Wilson and Linda Farris bought their small property about 10 years ago, it was a reforestation failure. But they have succeeded in beating back immense Scotch broom and other invasives and have planted a diverse mix of trees. Not stopping there, they continue adding diversity by releasing native shrubs that don’t get in the way of their planted trees, and by planting more native shrubs and herbaceous plants to occupy gaps where the invasives used to be.

Paul and Linda propagate most of their own plants from seed and cuttings, having learned over time what methods work for different species. They shared their experience on a recent Twilight Tour, and afterwards agreed to write up and share their propagation tips (in the rest of this article). Thank you Paul and Linda. If you want to try your hand at this, fall is a good time to start.

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Large purple plastic triangular boxes illustrate monitoring activity
Large purple plastic triangular boxes illustrate monitoring activity

by Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties and Wyatt Williams, ODF Invasive Species Specialist

A large purple box hanging in the trees along Airlie Road last year caught my attention at 55 mph. Pulling over I recognized it as a monitoring trap for one of the current invasive species threatening Oregon’s woodlands. Luckily ODF and others are watching out.

The emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive insect from Asia, has killed an estimated 100 million trees and caused more than $3.5 billion dollars’ worth of damage and property value losses in the eastern U.S. since its arrival in the 1990′s. All 16 North American ash species are threatened with extinction, including our native Oregon ash. The furthest west population yet detected is in Boulder, Colorado – a day’s drive or so from Oregon in a motor home. Originally introduced to the U.S. via wood packaging material, it is now spread across the continent in infested firewood.

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by Chal Landgren, OSU Extension Christmas Tree Specialist

Anyway it is spelled- Yellowjacket, Yellow Jacket or Yellow-Jacket, these insects are feared and hated not only by picnickers, but by many working in the woods, and in Christmas trees.  For Christmas tree growers they can inflict physical and economic pain, since they are unwanted hitchhikers in many shipping destinations.

First some biology- These are not honeybees. Rather, two predatory insects in the genus Vespula, whose common names are the Western Yellowjacket and German Yellowjacket. The Western

Comparison of queens.  Photo courtesy ODA
Comparison of queens. Photo courtesy ODA

Yellowjacket (V. pensylvanica) is a common native.  Yes, they are predators, but also scavengers, which makes them a pest at summer BBQs and picnics.  The German yellowjacket (V. germanica)  is an uncommon non-native species (not wanted in Mexico).  Both these insects feed on other insects as well as nectar, honeydew and fruit.

Queens will overwinter in protected locations above or below ground and emerge in May. After the queen emerges she will begin her colony which eventually can include hundreds to thousands of workers. Fertilized queens will emerge again in October or November. Males (stingless) begin to emerge in large numbers in late July. Continue reading

A ratty-looking incense-cedar near Corvallis
A ratty-looking incense-cedar near Corvallis

by Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

You’ve probably noticed that incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is looking pretty ratty in the mid-Willamette Valley this year.
Driving around, I am seeing many trees showing a mosaic of healthy and dead foliage. The dead foliage is reddish to muddy brown and may be individual fronds or small branches. It often seems to be in the lower parts of the tree. Symptoms seem to vary dramatically between trees, even adjacent ones.
So what is going on? Quite likely any of several things.
Incense-cedar rust  is a common and familiar foliar disease. It is most recognizable in the spring, when it produces orange gobs of jelly-like goo on the infected fronds. It commonly kills small sprays of leaves and causes a loss of tree vigor in severe cases. Continue reading