The Oregon Department of Agriculture has approved nine nursery research grants totaling almost $180,000, the agency announced last week. “Oregon has a great reputation for high quality nursery stock,” said Gary McAninch, supervisor of the ODA Nursery and Christmas Tree Program. “The industry counts on that quality to sell plants. Research helps the industry improve and maintain that quality while keeping Oregon competitive in the marketplace.”
The annual grants are supported by a portion of nursery license fees collected by ODA. “Industry is very supportive of this grant program,” McAninch said. “It’s one of the best ways to resolve key issues and why nursery growers are more than happy to direct part of their money to research.”
Successful grant applicants included the following:
• Harold Pellet, Landscape Plant Development Center (a non-profit research institute based in Minnesota) and Ryan Contreras, Oregon State University (OSU) — $30,000 to develop new superior cultivars of landscape plants.
• Ryan Contreras, OSU — $20,570 to develop sterile cherrylaurel cultivars.
• Jim Owen, Jr., OSU — $26,932 to study the integration of selected alternative substrates for woody ornamental container production.
• Jim Owen, Jr., OSU; Reza Ehsani, University of Florida; and James Robbins, University of Arkansas — $13,488 to test unmanned aircraft in the collection of nursery and Christmas tree inventory data.
• Barbara Reed, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) — $22,000 to study improved mineral nutrition for micropropagation of woody nursery crops.
• Nik Grunwald, ARS — $27,048 to study the spatial and temporal dynamics of foliar Phytophthora species on Rhododendron in nursery environments.
• Chal Landgren, OSU — $8,780 to test various soil additives to increase plant survival and growth.
• The Horticultural Research Institute — $10,000 to support ongoing horticultural research.
• OSU North Willamette Research and Extension Center — $18,940 to support a student intern at the facility.
Of the nine projects, perhaps the most interesting is the one involving the unmanned aircraft. “It’s a small hovering craft with a remote digital camera,” McAninch said. “It can fly over a nursery and will transmit a photo back to a computer with a software package that analyzes what is being seen. From that image and analysis, a nursery operator can tell how many plants of a particular variety are on the lot without having to send a person to go up and down the rows and count them individually. There are many other potential applications for this type of program. The industry is excited to see if this pilot project works in Oregon.”
Several projects deal with nutrient requirements of nursery stock plants. Other projects focus on developing new varieties and cultivars that may capture the attention of buyers and help Oregon growers differentiate their product in the marketplace.
Given the problems of the nursery industry the past couple of years due to the recession, it is more important than ever for research to take place. Growers are the first to realize these types of projects will help keep Oregon a leading nursery state.
“Research is such an important part of keeping Oregon's nursery industry at the top,” said Mt. Angel grower Tom Fessler, chair of the State Board of Agriculture and a past president of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN). “In order to maintain and enhance the quality of our product, we need better ways to deal with production problems, whether they are pests, diseases, conservation challenges, or the way we grow our plants. This research program and the money it provides helps.”