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

Dead tips (upper branch) and stunted growth (lower branch). Photo taken in January 2015, eight months after herbicide was applied.
Dead tips (upper branch) and stunted growth (lower branch). Photo taken in January 2015, eight months after herbicide was applied.

A local landowner contacted me this winter, concerned about his ten acres of young trees and whether they had been damaged by herbicides.  In May 2014, a year after the trees were planted, grass was coming in thick, so he hired a contractor to do a release spray.  We don’t know what the exact spray mixture was, but the landowner thought it may have been a formulation of glyphosate such as Accord.  Glyphosate is known to damage Douglas-fir seedlings (and many other conifers) during the active growing season – the time from when buds begin to swell in spring until resting buds are formed and hardened off in fall.

Affected trees showed several symptoms characteristic of herbicide damage. The least affected trees simply had stunted growth. On many others, the leader and branch tips were droopy and dead. Some seedlings were completely dead. Continue reading

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

How do you like your silviculture served? In a book, a pamphlet, a video, or an app?

A sampling of silviculture manuals dating from the 1970's and 80's
A sampling of silviculture manuals dating from the 1970’s and 80’s

My office shelves are lined with decades-old research reports, mostly left behind by my predecessors; and having neither the time to sort through them nor the ability to fully shake my packrat tendencies, I hang on to them. Besides the information they contain, these volumes form a historical record of sorts, and so while they don’t come off the shelf too much these days, they are worth keeping around.

An example is Douglas-fir: Stand Management for the Future (1986). The title makes me consider whether the Future of Douglas-fir stand management has turned out the way the authors expected, when this was published nearly 30 years ago. Continue reading

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

Winter storms seem to inflict damage to trees and forests somewhere in the area most years. Winds, snow and ice can damage individual trees or entire forest stands- breaking out branches, snapping the main trunk or tipping over whole trees, leaving landowners with a mess and many unexpected decisions.DSCN2137

This winter has been an exception in the severity of the November 2014 ice storm that battered a swath of the interior Coast Range from the Kings Valley area south to Mary’s Peak (see previous article).   This unusual event caused irregular and spotty damage reflecting fairly small differences in aspect and elevation.  Many landowners are still surveying the damage and considering their need to salvage and wondering if they can thin the damage out while leaving a healthy stand.  Damage is severe enough in some cases to be forcing the decision to clear cut and replant young stands rather than the early thinning they were due for.

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

A local meeting of professional foresters last month focused on how forest management practices reflect the objectives of the owners. That sometimes creates challenges for the managers, since owner and manager are often not synonymous when it comes to forests and other natural resource lands. Some objectives and corresponding management practices are very well defined and developed, and others much less so.

An intensively managed young stand
An intensively managed young stand

For example, lands managed for stockholders and other investors are often planted as even aged stands on fairly short rotations, since it is an efficient way to manage risk and provide a return on investment while also providing some additional benefits to society.   There is good understanding and a pretty straight line between those objectives and managers activities, both of which have remained reasonably steady over time. Their management practices have been developed through applied research, so these managers are generally quite successful in meeting their objectives.

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A Swiss Needle Cast affected tree
A Swiss Needle Cast affected tree

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

 

The short answer, unfortunately is ”yes”, but the news was clearly mixed when researches and land managers gathered for the Annual Meeting of the Swiss Needle Cast Coop (SNCC) in Corvallis on December 4. They met to review progress in learning more about this native disease, how it affects trees and forests, and how to manage forests in the affected areas.

The meeting included updates on this year’s aerial survey, progress in establishing the next generation of research plots across western Oregon, the effects of thinning and other management activities on foliage retention and growth, and improvements in remote sensing and growth modeling abilities. Some of the things I picked up this year included:

  • The disease is intensifying but not expanding greatly. That is to say, we are certainly seeing more severe disease symptoms in places, but mostly within areas where it has been a problem before, and the footprint of highly affected area does not seem to be growing very dramatically. The disease was detected on over 586,000 acres in 2014, which is up significantly from 18 years earlier (131,000 acres in 1996). The main area of impact remains near the coast, generally within 25 miles, except for an active area around Mary’s Peak.
  • Thinning pre-commercially does seem to help improve needle retention, but only in the healthiest trees and in the lower part of the live crown.
  • Unlike other stressors, such as drought, it seems that SNC-weakened trees are not highly attractive to Douglas-fir beetles.

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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