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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Horning Tree Seed Orchard, Colton, Oregon, USA

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Horning Tree Seed Orchard, Colton, Oregon, USA
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Registered: December 2019
City/Town/Province: Tigard
Posts: 1
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The summer of my senior year I interned at Horning Tree Seed Orchard through the Bureau of Land Management. The Horning Seed Orchard works to produce genetically improved seed from native coniferous trees of the Northwest. These improved seeds go on to be planted in reforestation efforts. The orchard consists of dozens of plantings on 750 acres in Colton, Oregon. These individual orchards house thousands of trees from juveniles to mature, seed bearing trees. As one half of the federal seed orchards in Oregon, Horning is responsible for about a third of the reforestation effort in the states. Trees planted in the orchards are grafted, meaning they are two separate trees of the same species fused together to produce seed. Through grafting, the mature cone bearing branches of a hundred year old tree can be grafted to multiple individuals to grow for cone production. As mentioned, the trees are genetically improved. The process of genetic improvement is similar to dog breeding, where individuals with desired traits are interbred to produce superior trees. These trees sport ID tags that correspond to their specific make up. Trees can be bred to grow for size, color, and chemical composition. In my time at Horning I transplanted hundreds of Western Red Cedars bred to be resistant to grazing from herbivores like Elk. These Cedars had a high concentration of Terpenes that ward of potential grazers. When planted in the wild these trees will have greater chances of reaching maturity than their counterparts lacking in high terpenes. I cared for the Cedars and thousands of other trees in the greenhouses of the facility. I performed routine watering, trimming, graft maintenance, and transplanting. These trees will be delegated off to timber companies, reforestation coalitions, and the Oregon Department of Forestry.
The focal point of my summer dealt with preliminary research on the germination of Noble fir seed. The results from this preliminary study will be used to further experiment, and research on the physiology of seeds to better understand germination techniques. The aim of the experiment came from word of mouth when our head orchardist returned from a regional orchard conference (there is such a thing). He shared that a speaker at the conference had boasted germinating hundreds and thousands of seeds in synchronization by keeping them in dormancy for longer than was necessary. I wanted to use my resources at the orchard to test this brag. Noble fir require fourteen days of dormancy to initiate germination when exposed to water. In nature this can be imagined as a seed being dropped in the fall, reaching near freezing temperatures in the winter for about two weeks, then being exposed to rain showers triggering germination. Synchronization was unnatural, certainly not known practice in propagation. Through my study I hoped to shed some light on the tall tail by putting numbers on the board. The research conducted aims to result in synchronized germination of Noble fir seed by prolonging a period of dormancy called "cold stratification." To explore the effects of a prolonged cold stratification three treatments were implemented, a 14 day cold stratification used as a control, a standard for Noble fir germination, a 28 day cold stratification, and lastly a 91 day cold stratification (6.5 times the suggested duration). To simulate winter seeds were placed in a fridge for their cold stratifications. Afterwards they were moved to germination chamber that simulated spring. In the chamber seeds were monitored for germination over a period of four weeks. By prolonging stratification over several treatments seeds were hypothesized to germinate in large numbers over a short period of time rather than a steady germination in multiple individual events. This result is due to acid concentrations within the seeds. By increasing cold stratification, the ratios between abscisic acids (dormancy encouraging acids) and gibberellic acids (growth acids), will favor gibberellic acids as abscisic acids diminish with time. As time is prolonged the seed has a greater incentive to germinate. The project contributes to a greater reforestation effort by gaining understanding of seed physiology mass propagation of seedlings becomes more efficient turning out seeds all at once rather than over several weeks. The data revealed earlier germination as cold stratification was increased. The germination was synchronized, but had a lower viability rate suggesting a specific duration resulting in greater viability and synchronization is within reach upon further experimentation.
Along with research in the lab I partook in many orchard activities that all work toward the ultimate goal of cone collection. I collected data on thousands of young trees taking Orchard Condition Inventory (OCI). Monitoring the young orchards for disease and damage is crucial in taking action to ensure health into adulthood. I next entered, proofed, and analyzed field data using access. I worked hands on maintaining orchards based upon their needs, from weed wacking to logging trees. I removed invasive species and spent time identifying potential threats to the ecosystem. Most importantly I spent my summer preparing for the cone harvest. The orchards' culmination of year round labor, improved seed. Cone production is a season long effort, in mature orchards I worked with staff to prepare for the cone harvest. This work included: Cone estimates, surveying and data collection from mature trees, cone cuts to evaluate seed development through the season, Tree tagging, harvest inventory, and data entry using access. The many activities and niches I worked in functioned as a complete cycle of the process of reforestation, from seeds to seeds.
My apprenticeship at the orchard opened my eyes to the beautiful world for forestry, trees are ancient beings that have been subject to drastic habitat changes. I feel that our efforts at genetic improvements are bringing them up to speed in our ever changing environment. I was drawn to the internship to learn more about trees, I was not aware I would play an integral part in saving them. Because of a successful summer thousands of seeds have been collected to replant the state that has been subject to rampant wildfires. My time spent amongst the trees has revealed a wonder for their inner workings. I plan to attend college in the fall to study forestry and can base this decision off of the summer before my senior year.
Date: December 31, 2019 Views: 3440 File size: 25.0kb, 1584.0kb : 3024 x 4032
Hours Volunteered: 300+
Volunteers: 4
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 17 to 70
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 303
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