For the past few years we’ve limited gatherings on the farm due to COVID-19 restrictions. In the summer of 2022, however, we were finally able to welcome the public back for Nursery Program Field Days. We’d like to take this opportunity to boast about a few of our highlights from the last several months.
For the first time, the Nackley Nursery Production team was an official stop on the Oregon Association of Nurseries Farwest Innovative Production Grower Tour. Our portion of the tour at NWREC showcased sensor-controlled irrigation, heat-stress mitigation techniques, LiDAR smart-sprayer systems, and practices that can reduce boxwood blight spread, and methods of scouting and monitoring insects in nurseries and greenhouses. These projects offer a wide range of savings for growers.: up to 80% improvement in irrigation efficiency, up to 70% reduction in sprayed pesticides, and a significant reduction in boxwood blight infection.
The second big event was an open house for our Climate Ready Landscape Plant trial, the largest coordinated landscape plant irrigation trial in the Western US. Plant professionals from around the region came to rate plants and discuss how we, as a society, are going to maintain healthy landscapes while faced with increasing extreme weather.
Ongoing projects that will continue this year include, research by our graduate student Sadie Keller, who is investigating Oak and Maple drought tolerance. This summer, Sadie shared her preliminary findings with scientists at the American Society for Horticultural Science, in Chicago.
In addition, Dr. Melissa Scherr continues our research on the Pacific Flatheaded beetle, with the anticipation of a grower event hosted at NWREC discussing current research on Flathead Borer biology and control this coming April – 2023.
I am originally from the great city of Tacoma, Washington. I went to an outdoors based high school where my love for plants and environmentalism blossomed. My favorite class was our version of “PE”, where we hiked through Point Defiance Park identifying native species. This passion drove me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at the University of Redlands. Moving to Redlands in Southern California was a stark contrast to my home in Puget Sound, but I grew to love most parts of it!
I went on many abroad terms and saw amazing parts of the world such as Peru, Ethiopia, and Iceland. Each time I returned I wished I had been there longer and itched to immerse myself even more in a different country. Once I graduated from Redlands, the natural next step was to join the Peace Corps. I spent two years in the Southeast corner of Senegal, West Africa. I lived in a 100-person village in the region of Kedougou where I learned to speak Jaxanke. As an Agroforestry Extension Agent, I helped with various agriculture and agroforestry projects. We created small-scale nurseries, collected seeds, showcased new and improved agroforestry techniques, and outplanted trees and shrubs around the village. I loved my time in Senegal and miss being there constantly.
After returning to the United States, I moved to Eugene, OR to work at Dorena Genetic Resource Center. I assisted the lead horticulturist in end-to-end native plant restoration, collecting/processing seed, and producing native plants to restore areas affected by fires, floods, and construction. I became the lead irrigator, which was a new problem-solving and damp adventure, and led seed collection trips across Oregon. I also helped develop a seed collection mapping application to track plant populations and store seed collection data.
This leads me to OSU! I just started at OSU this fall to pursue my Masters in Horticulture and work in the Nackley Lab. I am partnered with Sadie Keller on a project looking at stem hydraulics and how it relates to drought in shade trees. I am new to this type of research but am so eager to learn more! I am excited to get our stem hydraulics lab up and running and start the journey of data collection.
The ever-changing climate iputs pressure on the industry to develop more sustainable plants. As part of a six-university study, OSU seeks to improve urban water-use efficiency by evaluating landscape plant performance on three irrigation treatments corresponding to the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS): High, Moderate, and Low categories of water need. The plants are irrigated regularly during their first summer after planting. Treatments are imposed during the second growing season where researchers collect growth and quality ratings.
The Field Day allows landscape, nursery, and horticultural industry professionals and educators the opportunity to see new plants in their 2nd year and share your opinions and preferences by rating a representative sample of the plants in the field undergoing irrigation treatments. One plant from each of the 3 water levels, for 15 different species (some released to the public and some not yet) will be surveyed. Along with this field of 360 plants, you will be able to get a sneak peek at the next year’s field, currently in an establishment phase.
Important Details: The fields are packed dirt/uneven mulch, sturdy comfortable shoes, sunscreen and/or a hat are suggested. At the trial site, you will be provided a ratings sheet, clipboard, pen, and given general instructions when you arrive. It is a self-guided tour among our 720 landscape plants. Lots to look at but only a small sub set to evaluate. Hot Coffee and cold water will be provided. We value your feedback and hope to see you there!
The tour route will travel through fields with uneven terrain. Farm cart transport (e.g. gators) can be available for those who request assistance.
Schedule of Events
Field Tour 11 :00 -11:15 Station 1. Welcome, overview of the program and biostimulant research on Shade-Trees 11:15 – 11:30 Station 2. Plant-based irrigation scheduling: pressure bomb and infra-red thermography 11:30 – 11:45 Station 3. ET-based irrigation scheduling and Flatheaded borer research 11:45 – 12:00 Station 4. Cover cropping and Heat-stress prevention 12:00 – 12:15 Station 5. Boxwood blight control 12:15 – 12:30 Station 6. LiDAR “smart” air-blast sprayer and drone demonstration
12:30 – 1:00 Station 1. Open chat with research team, refreshments and grilled sides.
Open House 1:00 – 2:00 Self guided tour. Researchers will be at each of the six stations to answer questions. Sprayer demos will take place at station 6 every 15 mins.
I grew up in Littleton, Colorado amid the suburbs of Denver. Although I was a suburb kid, I grew up gardening from an early age, which sparked my love for plants. Going with what I was interested in, I decided to pursue a degree in something plant related at Colorado State University. I ended up studying horticulture, but took a wide range of classes including brewing technology, microbiology, biochemistry and business. Throughout my time at CSU I worked in a couple different lab groups, one that studied biofuel production and another that was focused on cryopreservation of vegetatively propagated crops. Working in the labs got me interested in science. I took a plant pathology course my senior year and loved how it was an integration of things I had learned in horticulture, microbiology, and other sciences.
Eventually I obtained my BS in Horticultural Science and a minor in Business Administration at CSU. I had such a good time learning about science and working in labs that I decided to pursue graduate school. I looked at a few universities throughout the USA but the prospect of working on specialty crops (fruits and nuts) had me more excited than working on field crops. I ended up landing at Oregon State University in the Botany and Plant Pathology Department. The project I worked on had me investigating fungicide resistance and grape powdery mildew management and I was fortunate to travel to many vineyards throughout the state to take samples and work with growers. Over the course of my Master’s degree I was able to present data from my research at two national plant pathology conferences, one in Tampa, FL and the other in San Antonio, TX, two places I had never been before. These experiences were very useful to hone my science communication skills which I use a lot in my current position.
After I finished my MS degree I started my current position working on the Intelligent Sprayer project at OSU with Drs. Lloyd Nackley and Jay Pscheidt. The part of the project I fit into investigates using the Intelligent Sprayer to manage grape powdery mildew with various fungicide regimes and investigating sprayer coverage in hazelnut and nursery crops. This has been a great fit for me as I have been able to apply what I learned during my MS and strengthen my research and writing skills. As with all agriculture, we come up with a plan every year and have ideas about how everything will go, but something always surprises us. During the season it’s always a push to collect all the data we need, but when the season is over it is very interesting to sit down, go through the data, and make graphs and connections as to how the treatments we applied fared. Writing up the data into informative reports, and in doing so, making connections to past literature while abstracting it into the future is another part of the process that makes me love what I do.
I’ve been fortunate to live in two different states that are great for my outdoor oriented lifestyle. I grew up camping, fishing, backpacking, canoeing and skiing in Colorado. I have since gotten into rock climbing, rafting and kayaking, and hunting in Oregon, and especially love spending time on the Oregon coast. If I were to give some advice to someone following a similar career path to me I would tell them to always be open to opportunities and to get out of their comfort zone regularly.
I grew up in a small rural town in East Texas, deep behind the piney wood curtain in a land dominated by giant loblolly pines, muddy windy rivers, and air so thick and humid it felt like you were wearing it. When was a teenager I mowed lawns and fixed up garden beds. One client I had, Miss Trixie, was getting on up in her years. She had an amazing green thumb but her age had was limiting her mobility. She would coach me through everything I did – pulling weeds, planting annuals, pruning, and fertilizing. She left me with a love of horticulture that I will carry until the end of my days.
I enriched that love by getting a BS in Horticulture at Texas A&M. While I was there I worked as a student worker for a rose and peach breeder. It was where I first learned about the land grant system and the mission of extension, and I thought at the time that is sounded like a really fun job. I also met my wife through that job. She was a horticulture student as well, and she worked on the roses and I worked on the peaches. We just never stopped hanging out, now we have been married for almost 10 years.
After I graduated from Texas A&M I enrolled in a Masters International program at Oklahoma State University. The program merges graduate school and serving in the United States Peace Corps into one. After a little over a year of studies at OSU my wife and I were sent to Panama to serve as volunteers in an indigenous community deep in the rain forest near the Columbian border. My time in the Peace Corps was good, but also very challenging. We lived in one of the most remote sites of any of Peace Corps Volunteer in the world at that time. Illness and isolation were persistent challenges, but it was very rewarding work. We taught home gardening, and worked on clean water projects. When we left many folks in our little village of 100 people were growing their own veggies for the first time.
When we returned from Panama, I took a job for a year working for Texas A&M Extension and Research doing an irrigation trial on dent corn in the high desert of Arizona. I lived and worked on a couple 1000 acre farm and learned a great deal about irrigation. A family illness brought us back to East Texas, and we became teachers. We taught high school biology and environmental science for 5 years. We used our summer breaks and holidays to build a house. Little by little we built the whole thing ourselves in cash over 4 years. After resting for 1 year we decided that we were tired of living in such a hot and humid place and decided to pack up and move “somewhere you can see mountains”. In June of 2019 I got a job working for the Small Farms Program here at NWREC and we moved to the great Pacific Northwest and never looked back.
Living and working in the Willamette valley is such rewarding experience. It is truly a horticultural paradise, with some world class soils and growers. I get do something a little different every day, sometimes installing research trials or putting together workshops for growers, and there are always endless opportunities to hone my horticultural skills.
I spent my childhood in western New York where my mom took us hiking, mushroom foraging, and taught us how to identify the deciduous trees around us. We moved to Oregon when I was 10 and not much has changed except the forests were now coniferous and we learned to brave the rain. My love of plants and ecology was sparked during these weekend trips as I learned how all organisms are interconnected.
When I started my undergraduate degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do and jumped from major to major. After 2 years at community college, I transferred to Oregon State University and landed on marine biology. During this time, I had the opportunity to be a research assistant in Utila, Honduras for Operation Wallacea and lead scientific dives for PhD student Nadia Jogee. Through this experience I realized my love of problem solving that goes along with field research, but despite my enjoyment I felt that marine biology wasn’t quite what I wanted for a career.
Once the pandemic hit and I was suddenly home all the time, I started to collect house and landscape plants to improve my living space. I had a lot of fun learning to care for them and read up on nutrient needs, soil types, watering, pruning, and propagation. A lot of this information I found in extension articles that led me to the College of Agricultural Science at OSU. I now have research experiments that focus on improving plant care and management practices in nursery production systems.
I’m now in the last term of my undergraduate degree in Horticulture and am fortunate to have been in the accelerated master’s platform (AMP) for the last year, with Dr. Lloyd Nackley and Dr. Ryan Contreras as co-advisors. This program has allowed me to get a head start on my graduate coursework and field research with the support of my advisors and other faculty. I have gotten to learn so much in the last year from propagating cuttings, to finishing plants, best management practices, and so much more. I also get valuable lab experience working for Dr. Carolyn Scagel at the USDA-ARS Horticulture Crops Research Lab where I have assisted with tissue collection, water sampling and nutrient and data analysis to aid in her plant physiology research. My favorite part of research is getting to work outside to conduct experiments and getting to work alongside so many great and knowledgeable people!
My path to pursuing a Master of Science in Horticulture has not been straight and narrow. Ironically, growing up in California’s Central Valley, I wasn’t aware of the career possibilities in agriculture and horticulture. I’d always possessed an affinity for plants and the outdoors for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories involve working in our backyard garden with my dad and raising chickens.
I graduated high school with a love of science and headed to college to pursue an engineering degree. After two years of struggling with my major, it was time to come home and assess my options. I started attending classes at a local community college and found a job working farmers markets on the weekends. Little did I know, this experience would change the rest of my life. I loved this job and it showed me what I was passionate about; the environment, sustainability, irrigation efficiency, and building climate resilient landscapes and agriculture systems.
I transferred to California State University, Stanislaus to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. From this point on, I have thrown myself into every possible internship and work experience to expand my skills and deepen my knowledge. I’ve worked as a nursery technician, a field scout, a CSA assistant, a standards program aide for the county, a trapper, an inspector, and research assistant. In February of 2020, I was selected to attend the Future Leaders in Agriculture Program in Washington D.C. with 20 other students from around the U.S. where my eyes were opened to the vast opportunities available in agriculture.
Now, as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Nackley Lab, I study ornamental plant vascular systems responses to drought conditions and stem hydraulics. Being at Oregon State and a member of the Nackley Lab, I feel like I am getting the most hands-on experience and interdisciplinary education possible. I am getting lab experience working for Dr. Carolyn Scagel at the USDA-ARS Horticulture Crops Research Lab where I support her plant physiology research by helping with tissue and water sample collection, processing, and laboratory analyses related to plant water relations and plant mineral nutrition. With Dr. Nackley, I am getting to explore my interests in remote sensing technologies and learning how I can incorporate these technologies into my thesis project. I am also a TA for his Plant Nursery Systems class this Spring. My favorite part about doing research is working at NWREC over the summer with our lab team and other graduate students.
I was born and raised in Southern Oregon (Central Point, OR). I grew up with a family that spent a lot of time outdoors, and almost always around water. White water rafting, crabbing trips, skiing, surf lessons, and sailing was how I spent most weekends and summers. Not much has changed. I have always been a tinkerer and love being creative, solving problems and building. My up bringing, laced with unintentional physics lessons, paired with a love for math and science led me to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State University.
During undergrad, my path of study provided me with many unique and exciting opportunities. My favorite of which was studying abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. This was such an incredible experience that widened my world view and got me passionate about international travel. I then got involved in the OSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and in my last year of undergrad I traveled to rural Cambodia on an assessment trip to plan out the design for a water distribution and filtration system for a small village. It was a powerful and transformative experience, as I was able to see the complexity and challenges of water resource issues globally. We learned a lot from the community and local NGOs about project management, engineering in low-resource environments, and the challenges associated with regulating a common-pool resource like water. Ultimately, it was during this experience that I realized I wanted to be in a profession where I could contribute to solving global environmental problems, which led to my M.S. in Water Resource Engineering with a research focus on precision agriculture from the University of Idaho.
Now, as an FRA in the Nackley Lab working on sensor-controlled irrigation techniques, I am lucky to have found a niche career path that combines engineering and environmentalism. I investigate and develop automatic irrigation systems that use real-time feedback from plants, soil or weather (or a combination thereof) to control irrigation and conserve resources. My favorite thing about working in agricultural research and extension is the great potential for impact. At the extension level, we are at the very important nexus of academic research and on-farm adoption. Working closely with growers to develop pertinent research questions, and having growers anticipate our experimental results gives our work tangible purpose and keeps things exciting.
Melissa is Greek for “honey bee”, but I’m pretty sure my parents hadn’t given me the name expecting I’d take it quite so literally. Though when I’m hand-pollinating my corn in the summer to make sure I get well-fertilized, full cobs I thoroughly enjoy the irony. Even as a kid, one of my favorite hobbies was flipping over paving stones to capture worms and “rolly pollies” and other small insects in the unused canning jars in the garage… much to the horror of my parents when canning season came back around. Though I don’t think I was the only kid doing things like that, I have noticed that the Entomology community isn’t as big as it would be if all the kids grew up to become insect specialists.
Becoming an entomologist wasn’t exactly the dream I had growing up, either, and in all honesty, I didn’t even know it was a career path until college. In fact, I’d started university in the music program with a scholarship for Vocal Performance but not really knowing what I wanted for myself as a career. The biggest mistake of that career was testing into General Biology for Majors, because in my first term of classes I knew Biology was where I belonged. I finished my first year at college taking the minimum required credits to maintain my scholarship while doubling down on my biology, chemistry, and math courses. I began my second year as a biology major.
With my limited exposure to careers in science, I began exploring specialties through the courses I took at Oregon State University during my undergrad years. I took an Aquatic Entomology class that finally lit up all the ideas and passion that I felt for science, and it didn’t take long for me to decide that insects and ecology were going to be my path. I became fascinated with the interaction between insects and their environments, the way they could be used as living indicators, and tracked to understand weather patterns and the ecologies of other organisms.
From there, my desire to understand the way insects behave in response to changes in the environment evolved and I began to examine insects in changing landscapes of the Pacific Northwest: insect community aggregation in timber lands, pollinators in degraded and then restored landscapes, and channeled river systems in agricultural lands.
Working in Nursery production is very similar. In every ecosystem, the part of this job I enjoy the most is the new mystery and the strange way insects have adapted to life with humans in our tiny corner of the world. There are more questions than answers, and insects find a way to surprise and amaze me in every project – sometimes not in the best of ways, like when they disappear the same year a major grant is funded – but always in ways that make my job interesting and compelling. I plan to always be found crawling through the foliage, shaking leaves and scratching the soil, searching for tiny answers.