Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Forest-Related Education for the Next Generation: Outdoor School

Date of Visit: May 29 - 30, 2019
Type of event: Field trip
Topic: Forest-Related Education for the Next Generation
Organization: Camp Magruder

Location: Camp Magruder, Tillamook, Oregon
Hosts: Andy Hecker / Camp Magruder Outdoor School Program Leader
International Fellows:  Zhongyuan Ding (China), Will Maiden (United Kingdom)

On a sunny Wednesday after Memorial Day, two International Fellows visited Camp Magruder, which was hosting nearly 180 sixth-grade students from Laurel Ridge Middle School and Sherwood Middle School for a week-long Outdoor School program. Coordinated by Dr. Randy Smith (Courtesy Faculty of Portland State University), Zhongyuan Ding and Will Maiden spent two days at the camp observing forestry-related activities. Ongoing for more than 60 years in Oregon, Outdoor School provides the opportunity for students in fifth or sixth grade to move from their school classrooms into the outdoors to learn and immerse themselves in nature. In 2015, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 439: The Outdoor School Law, which means every Oregon student in fifth or sixth grade will have the opportunity to attend a weeklong Outdoor School program or an equivalent outdoor education experience.

Outdoor school instructor explaining forest ecosystem values to sixth-grade
students on the forest-themed field study

At Camp Magruder, the students were separated into 6 groups, with each group supervised by one instructor and five student leaders. The instructor was responsible for carrying out all scheduled scientific study site activities and was directly supported by five student leaders, mainly college and high school students, in assisting 30 sixth-grade students in all phases of the Outdoor School program. Within or adjacent to Camp Magruder’s 160-acre area are a wide variety of ecosystems, including forest, ocean, freshwater lake, and marsh, so that on the schedule there were 5 field studies with designated themes: Forest, Beach, Soil, Wetland, and Animals. At mealtime, students were seated at tables with wooden plaques featuring different animal and plant names, such as Alder, Conifer, Puma, Bee and so on. At 8 pm each evening, campfire time took place, which consisted of the acting out of dramas, comedies and choruses. The students sat along a trail next to each other and acted as both audience and  performing artists, as they occasionally jumped out and took part in group performances led by student leaders.
The decomposition times of different types of
man-made materials were discussed

On the Forest-themed field study that Will and I shadowed, the instructor showcased to the students four common stages of ecological succession- meadow, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, and old-growth forest -and explained the differences among them by organizing a role-playing game. The instructor also presented a philosophical argument to the group to demonstrate the ecosystem values of forests: What would you choose to do to gain 100 thousand cubic feet of timber? Cut down 10 acres of old-growth trees or 30 acres of small trees? Climate change was discussed by talking about purchasing locally-produced products and considering buying items with less packaging.

Students turning over the garden compost by hand
As well as learning about the forest, the children received a geography lesson by drawing a 3-D map of Oregon in the sand. Each group used driftwood, shells, sand, and seaweed to produce their maps, with the best group receiving a bead for their necklace to take home (as per the camp’s reward system). The camp also used hands-on techniques with the children to turn over the camp’s compost system. Here the camp instructor highlighted the speed at which natural materials decompose and showed the students examples of metal, plastic, glass, and cotton to address the decomposition process. The students learned a lot through interactive games and subgroup discussions about how unique and complex the natural world is and what role human beings play in the ecosystem.

An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

Zhongyuan Ding, International Fellow
from China, has a huge crush on big trees
The extent to which youngsters learn to understand and wisely use natural resources today will largely determine their behaviors in the future. For me, a human resources officer at the Chinese Academy of Forestry, it was good to see a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to natural sciences in action instead of learning these concepts from textbooks in the classroom. The Outdoor School program is an impressive example of developing skills, such as critical thinking and teamwork, as well as promoting good citizenship.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Forest Disturbances and Fire Ecology: Columbia River Gorge

Date of Visit: May 31, 2019 
Type of event: Study tour
Topic: Forest Disturbances and Fire Ecology
U.S. Forest Service, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Location: Herman Creek Trail, Cascade Locks, Oregon
Host: Robin Shoal, Staff Officer for Planning and Resources
International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow.

Now that the snow is away, let’s go hiking, Fellows! On this day, the International Fellows were VIPs accompanied by Robin Shoal from the U.S. Forest Service as we visited a forest recovering from a recent fire. We went to “The Gorge”, one of nine National Scenic Areas (NSA) in the United States.  The Columbia River Gorge NSA is Portland’s backyard, and about 4 million visitors per year visit Multnomah Falls and other gorgeous waterfalls while others hike the trails that were left undisturbed by the Eagle Creek Fire.

The Gorge was designated as a National Scenic Area in 1986 and consists of a 292,500-acre patchwork of public and private lands. It is divided into three zones, each with different land use regulations. The Urban area (about 10% of total area) contains 13 towns and communities which serve as the focus of local economic development programs, while activities in the General Management Area (50% of total area and includes the Columbia River) are mostly forestry and agriculture-related with some residential development permitted. The Special Management Area (40% of total area) consists of the most environmentally or visually sensitive lands, so activities are more restricted here than in other parts of the Scenic Area. It includes the 65,822- acre Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness area.

Robin Shoal explaining ongoing trail rehabilitation work
to the International Fellows

After the International Fellows introduced ourselves, Robin told us the story of the Eagle Creek Fire. On Saturday, September 2, 2017, after a long summer drought, a carelessly tossed firework landed in a canyon just off the Eagle Creek Trail. In the hours that followed, the U.S. Forest Service and Hood River County Sheriff's Office worked side by side to fight the fire and rescue more than 170 hikers. By September 4, east winds and excessive heat pushed the rapidly growing blaze west across the ridges of the National Scenic Area. In the days that followed, it became a 48,000-acre conflagration that rained down ash on Portland, smoldered near the city's water supply at Bull Run, and closed transportation arteries through the only sea-level route in the Cascades Mountain Range, including Interstate 84, the Union Pacific railroad, and even the Columbia River.

Two years after the fire, under a shining spring sun, the Fellows followed the newly reopened Herman trail and observed eroded slopes and destabilized rocks. Of the two hundred miles of pre-existing trails, only seventy miles have been secured and rehabilitated.  Trail rehabilitation when in the designated wilderness area, is done manually without any mechanical tools and is performed most often by volunteers supervised by the Gorge Trail Recovery Team, an organization comprised of four associations.

Continuing along our hike, we could also appreciate that the great majority of second-growth Douglas fir stands are still alive and that the understory vegetation has once again taken its place. We were inside the wilderness area, where no fire suppression has been done in recent years, except where human safety is concerned. Even though today the vegetation has changed, tree trunks that have been burnt are sending out new sprouts, and poison oak is covering everything! If not for the burnt traces on the bark of the trees, one could almost forget that this forest was overcome with fire just two years ago! But the trail we were on was not necessarily the one most impacted!

Within the National Scenic Area, precise monitoring of fire disturbance is carried out by field floristic surveys and aerial photographic inventories. The purpose of these studies is to monitor and measure the effects of fire over years. What emerged from the first analysis is the landscape has transformed from a second-growth forest with a closed canopy to a mosaic of landscapes.

The burn "mosaic" left behind after the Eagle Creek Fire

Instead of leaving behind a completely scorched dead zone, fire leaves a patchwork of brown and blackened areas with some green oases known as a burn “mosaic.” In this mix, severely burned areas have large groves of standing dead trees. Moderately burned areas will have a mixed canopy, where some trees survive while others eventually succumb to their damage. Finally, lightly burned and unburned areas will have an intact, healthy tree canopy but the ground vegetation is burned away, opening up bare soil that is ready for new growth. Here, a "seed bank" of many decades’ worth of seeds will be ready to spring to life, bringing rapid new growth. This complex mix of forest stands creates more diverse conditions for plant species and more types of habitat for animal species, even boosting the forest's biodiversity in the years following a fire. One challenge, however, is to prevent areas that burned from being colonized by invasive plants rather than by a mix of native species.

Lessons Learned

For almost everybody, wildfire is catastrophic, and it is! Preservation of life, conservation of property, and environment protection are top priorities and under the gaze of the media. From 1999 to 2010, the United States spent $19 billion fighting fires on 100 million acres which destroyed 1,100 homes and killed 230 people.

But fire is a natural phenomenon, too, even in the wet forests of the West Cascades, so the forest ecosystem has a natural process for regenerating and has done so for millions of years! Recent history shows us that at the close of the 20th century, nearly all old-growth mixed-conifer forests had been harvested (only 2% left) and fire suppression had been applied, meaning no fire was allowed and aggressive firefighting was the general rule of thumb. As a consequence, one century later, tree regeneration has grown, leading to today’s forests with high fuel accumulation, thus increasing drastically wildfire risk, especially in areas close to human populations.

Today’s “do nothing” attitude has led to large fires which will theoretically restore climax forest conditions composed of large trees and minimal understory. But it will take centuries for that to happen! Instead, throughout the Gorge, the U.S. Forest Service uses management tools, such as forest thinning and prescribed burns, to mimic a natural fire interval. This is beneficial for recreating the area's natural history, supporting plant and animal biodiversity, and decreasing risks of catastrophic future fires by reducing fuel loads.

Romain Matile, International Fellow from France,
 becoming friends with Bigfoot
An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

The Eagle Creek fire story expresses well the stakes attributed to a forest close to an urban center: issues of landscape protection, recreational use, ecological and habitat restoration, watershed protection. It reminded me of Provence, France with Marseille and its 1.5 million inhabitants. In some neighborhoods, it literally takes just the simple act of crossing the street to end up in the Calanques National Park, an area with high visitor frequency, many environmental protection issues, and a stack of regulations that renders it impossible to carry out wildfire protection work. The job that a forester must do today goes much further than managing trees on a parcel of land; he/she must first and foremost manage human beings!

Friday, June 7, 2019

4th World Congress on Agroforestry

Date of visit: May 20 - 24, 2019
Type of event: Conference
Topic: Agroforestry
Location: Montpellier, France
International Fellow: Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan)

Over 1,200 experts from a hundred countries met in Montpellier, France for the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry on May 20-22, 2019. Just six miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, Montpellier is one of France's oldest university cities. The world congress is held every 5 years, and this year was the first time it was held in Europe. The congress has previously been held in the United States, Kenya, and India. In addition to the scientific program and posters, side-events, field trips, and a rich social program all kept participants busy during the entire week. Agroforestry, or the intentional integration of agriculture and forestry, has recently drawn much attention from scientists and farmers across the globe recently for its potential benefits. The overall objective of this world congress was to strengthen the links between science, society, and public policy. The program covered a wide range of topics, such as: climate change, biodiversity, agroecology, land degradation and restoration, public policies, adoption, finance, germplasm, landscapes, and more.

Climate change was one of the hottest topics at the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry

There were more than 600 posters covering the most recent
national and international developments in agroforestry.
If you think agroforestry is an issue pertaining only to tropical Africa, you would be surprised to know that attendance from tropical versus temperate areas was about the same for the first time at this congress. It is estimated that agroforestry systems comprise 8.8% of the utilized agricultural area in Europe. The most common agroforestry practices in Europe are alley cropping and silvopasture (the combination of trees with forage and livestock production). Several organizations accelerate the application of agroforestry in Europe. For example, AFINET fosters exchange and knowledge transfer between scientists and practitioners of agroforestry. The European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) is aimed at promoting the use of trees on farms as well as any kind of silvopastoralism throughout Europe.

The benefits of agroforestry associated with climate change were widely discussed at the congress. Agroforestry systems are known to sequester large amounts of carbon in tree biomass and in soil organic carbon stocks. Compared to pure agricultural practices, agroforestry is capable of mitigating carbon emissions, adapting to increasingly erratic weather caused by climate change, restoring degraded soils, and maximizing the overall productivity of landscapes.

Appropriate policy can certainly encourage the adoption of agroforestry. The first mention of “agroforestry” in policy documents of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union was in 1998. The target of the current CAP is to establish 74,000 ha (183,000 acres) of agroforestry, although measurement of progress towards achieving this goal is not readily available. India is the first country to adopt a national agroforestry policy in 2014. This policy merged the existing policies for agriculture, forestry, water, and environment, and recognized that land use, by its very nature, must be integrative.

Lessons Learned
Domain Enclos de la Croix vineyard (est. 1816) recently
converted to agroecological management.
Prevailing agroforestry systems or problems might be different among regions or countries, but congress attendants were all seeking techniques or policies on agroforestry that would best benefit the environment. Not only scientists, but also farmers, are beginning to understand the importance of trees and to voluntarily modify their agricultural systems towards agroforestry. At one of the stops on the conference field trip, we visited an agroforestry vineyard that was started in 1816 and converted to organic farming in 1992. The 7th-generation farm owner started to plant trees in his vineyard a few years ago after he noticed changes in the local climate. He hopes to run his vineyard sustainably and has decided profit is not his top priority.

An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

Fen-hui Chen, International Fellow from Taiwan
I am happy to see that more researchers and farmers around the world are beginning to recognize the importance of trees in agricultural systems, though progress is still scattered and slow. In Taiwan, agroforestry has not been mainstreamed or supported through policy. Only a few people are really interested in or are implementing agroforestry there. However, after attending this congress, I know I am not alone. The Montpellier Declaration, which was published at the end of this world congress, states “Make our planet treed again!” I believe the degradation of the world’s biodiversity and environment can be mitigated if we all work together.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Redwoods Restoration: Redwoods National and State Parks

Date of Visit: May 16, 2019
Type of event: Study tour
Topics: Redwoods Restoration
Companies/Organizations: Redwoods National and State Parks
Locations: Prairie Creek, Jedediah Smith, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Parks, California
Hosts: Jason Teraoka / Forester, Scott Powell / Restoration technician, Neil Youngblood / Restoration Technician at Redwood National and State Parks.
International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
WFI Staff:  Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator, Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow

Prairie Creek State Park visitor center
Our first introduction to the amazing redwoods happened along the Avenue of Giants in Humboldt State Park as we drove in. After getting some information in the park’s visitor center, we had the opportunity to further experience the inevitable admiration and emotional high of walking among these giants in the Founders Grove trail. There we had the great opportunity to share space with them as closely as we wanted to, touching, hugging, or simply trying to absorb the moment. For me, this was a childhood dream come true.
The next day, we visited Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to learn about the redwoods restoration program that has been running since 1978. We were given a warm welcome by the park’s forester, Jason Teraoka, and restoration specialists, Neil Youngblood and Scott Powell. The redwoods restoration program is meant to restore, protect, and reconnect redwoods that were heavily harvested as the result of an aggressive forestry biologic asset liquidation strategy that led to the parks’ creation. This restoration program management evolved from roads removal to a multi-level landscape focus. An important indicator of success of the road restoration efforts is the presence of different-sized gravel types in streams, allowing for cavities among them, which serve as wildlife habitat. The absence of these cavities occurs when eroded dirt covers them.

Ecologically-driven thinning are used to manipulate vegetation composition and structure, modifying even-aged Douglas Fir-dominated vegetation. The goal is to promote more uneven-aged stand composition and spatial distribution for redwoods repopulation. The efficacy of different thinning densities and extraction techniques have been proven. Of special interest is that, by applying thinnings from below, typical for commercial plantations, the restoration foresters found that the redwoods were not benefiting much, as Douglas fir, the dominant species in these seeded areas, was getting a competitive advantage. For this reason, a crown selection thinning system has also been applied, resulting in crown recovery for the redwoods. Another thinning technique, cluster thinning, is currently under review as a potential mechanism to create a more natural spatial distribution of redwoods.
Prescribed burning area
Throughout the park, various extraction methods have been implemented by selected skillful loggers and closely supervised by park managers to reduce the risk of wildfire and to generate income. In areas with no road access, wood is not extracted, but eventually prescribed fire may be used to manage fire risk. After any logging operations, used roads are killed and the eroded soil is moved back to its original position. When asked about how they have reached management efficiency in the work that they do, the park managers responded with doing a great amount of outreach and implementing strong collaboration initiatives. For example, the Save the Redwoods League, a locally-based, conservation-oriented NGO, helps finance ecologically-driven logging throughout the parks.

After this field visit, we were invited to Neil Youngblood’s house, where a friendly group of neighbors gathered and shared their experiences with us, and us with them, including Leonel Arg├╝ello, the Chief of Resource Management and Science and who started this innovative, paradigm-shifting project.

On our last day, we drove through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. At this last park, we stopped to visit the Howland Hill Giant, which is the 6th largest coastal redwood, and to take a farewell hike along the Boy Scout Tree Trail. I hope many
more will continue to be friends with these peaceful giants. 

Rodolfo Vieto, International Fellow from Costa Rica
An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

We learned a good conservationist lesson from the park managers: "It may have taken a long time and much effort to start a new paradigm in which thinning is allowed within Redwoods National and State Parks but now, different thinning treatments are providing advantages for the redwoods to recover.” I keep believing that conservation is not always about "not touching". Not all we do is meant to be destructive or greed-based and should not be demonized. Let's not use fear-based narratives that may interfere with good management of natural resources that we are called to do on behalf of a holistic well-being.

Sawmill Operation: Sierra Pacific Industries

Date of Visit: May 14, 2019
Type of event: Study tour
Topics: Sawmill Operation and Redwoods Restoration
Companies/OrganizationsSierra Pacific Industries
Hosts: Shane Young / Area Manager, Tanner Estes / Plant Safety Manager, Darren Dearborn / Interim Plant Manager at Sierra Pacific
International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
WFI Staff:  Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator, Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow

As we traveled south from Portland to California on I-5, changes in geological and atmospheric conditions, such as wind, humidity and elevation, gave rise to new ecological conditions, allowing for different dominant tree species compositions to be present in the surrounding landscapes. We drove through Douglas Fir-dominated conifer forests, mixed conifers, Ponderosa Pine, Oak savannah, and agricultural and cattle-ranching areas to the humid land of the Redwoods National and State Parks.

Sawmill Operation with Cogeneration Plant

Inside the control room
In Anderson, California we visited one of Sierra Pacific Industries’ twelve industrial facilities. Sierra Pacific is one of the few remaining vertically integrated forest products companies in the US. This tour provided a good opportunity to note how the efficiency-seeking culture of the US is implied in all the processes we observed. Beyond the plant’s operations, we were able to confirm that different management planning techniques, such as optimal harvest scheduling, are also applied in the formulation of Sierra Pacific’s forest management plans.

This sawmill plant runs for 20 hours a day, 5 days a week, with two daily shifts. It consists of 6 divisions and receives approximately 200 log trucks a day that were already sorted in the forest at time of harvesting. Logs are watered in the log yards to avoid cracking in the dry climate. This is a zero-waste plant producing for the wood commodity market in which residues, including bark chips, are collected and sold for home landscaping purposes. Fuel-wood is used to power a 30-Megawatt cogeneration plant. Sierra Pacific’s industrial facilities are carbon neutral, allowing the company to sell carbon credits. Technologically speaking, the plant is self-sustained, developing their own processing equipment mainly with electric motors rather than hydraulic, assisted with Programming Logic Controls and multiple optical sensors along the production lines, including log scanning and sawing, re-sawing, edging, planning, grading, trimming, and stacking and packaging.

Various stages of the production line

Rodolfo Vieto, International Fellow from Costa Rica
An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

From a Costa Rican forestry economist’s point of view, the efficiency-seeking culture in the Pacific Northwest forestry sector is impressive as well as motivating when you want your own country’s forestry sector to grow. And even though the technology we observed on this study tour is designed for coniferous trees and may not be directly applicable to tropical tree species as-is, the concepts would still be applicable to larger-sized forestry plantation investments which need to be promoted in Costa Rica. Forestry is an activity that is economically feasible under the right economies of scale. For it to be an attractive business, efficiency-seeking management and industries are required.

Agroforestry: Lago di Merlo Vineyards

Date of Visit: May 15, 2019  
Type of event: Study tour
Topic: Agroforestry
Organization: Lago di Merlo Vineyards and Ca'Bella
Location: Geyserville, California
Hosts: Harry Merlo, Jr.
International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (United Kingdom), Romain Matile (France), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow, Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator

On a week-long trip to northern California, the International Fellows visited Harry Merlo, Jr. at his vineyard for a morning tour on agroforestry. Harry Merlo, Sr., philanthropist and World Forest Institute founder, raised his son Harry Jr. in the winemaking tradition. Harry Sr. began at the age of five, crushing grapes with his feet for his father, Giuseppe Merlo, in the Italian section of Stirling City, California. The tradition continued with the acquisition of Harry Sr.’s vineyard near Geyserville, California in 1965. Eventually, family interest in winemaking led his son, Harry Jr., to study viticulture and enology at California State University, Fresno. Following graduation, Harry Jr. ultimately became Manager of Lago di Merlo Vineyards & Winery at the Merlo Ranch in Sonoma County. Under Harry Jr.'s leadership, the Merlos have expanded their vineyard to over 200 acres and currently grow Sangiovese Piccolo, Merlot, Cabernet, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Group photo in front of Harry Jr.'s grape harvester, which can harvest
up to 10 acres/hour. The harvester is Harry Jr.'s most expensive equipment.

Harry Jr. describes his method of vineyard management as a collaboration between agriculture and forestry. He believes in responsible stewardship of the land and participates in Sustainable Sonoma's voluntary points system, where private landowners earn points for implementing sustainable measures, including installing solar panels, planting trees to minimize soil erosion, and providing wildlife habitat, such as wood duck boxes. Currently on his 30th harvest, Harry Jr. chooses not to use Roundup to control weeds underneath the grapevines and instead opts for more labor-intensive mechanical weeding. Annual post-harvest pruning is also done by hand, whereas leaf thinning is done both by hand and mechanically. Cover crops, such as legumes and oats, are planted in between grapevine rows then tilled under to improve soil conditions. The entire vineyard is irrigated by drip irrigation, which uses water from the property's own reservoir at a low rate of 1 gallon per hour. The perimeter of the vineyard is lined with pine trees, which act to prevent soil erosion. Over the past 30 years, more than 750,000 conifers have been planted on the property. The forested part of the property is managed under a non-commercial timber harvest plan, which stipulates that no more than 2,050 board feet can be harvested at a time. Harry Jr. describes managing his land as a "lifestyle occupation" and can't imagine doing anything better for a living.

Thank you so much, Harry, for your generous hospitality!

Dinner with Harry Jr. at Catelli's, his favorite Italian restaurant

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Seedling Nursery Management: IFA Nurseries, Inc.

Date of visit: May 1, 2019
Type of event:
Study tour
Topic: Seedling Nursery Management
Company visited: IFA Nurseries, Inc.
Location: Aurora and Canby, Oregon
Hosts: Shannon Murphy and Thomas Cushman, Nursery Managers
International Fellows: Richard Banda (Malawi), Fen-hui Chen (Taiwan), Temitope Dauda (Nigeria), Zhongyuan Ding (China), Ana Kanoppa (Brazil), Will Maiden (UK), Rodolfo Vieto (Costa Rica)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Program Manager

On a sunny Thursday, May 2nd, 2019, the International Fellows had their first study tour of the month to IFA Nurseries in Aurora and Canby, Oregon. Since 1941, IFA Nurseries has been providing foresters and landowners with a full-service conifer seedling system that offers the following: risk diversity, custom growing, excellent facilities, and experienced management for their reforestation seedling contracts. In total, IFA Nurseries has grown over 1.5 billion seedlings since its establishment.

Aurora IFA nursery managers with international fellows

IFA Nurseries performs a variety of operations ranging from seed collection and treatment to the production of seedlings. Seeds are collected from orchards and wild picking. Collection is done by climbing or cutting trees and collecting cones which are mostly green because of their freshness at time of harvest. The cones are then put into a bin where they are heated until they are dry and open. They are then shaken up to remove the seeds. Each seed then goes through several processes before it is separated from the chaff and is treated to preserve its viability. Seeds are sometimes colored for easy identification. Seed collection zones are well-documented to ensure that seed species are matched with the correct planting site. Seeds from any particular zone should not be planted in a different zone.

Greenhouses at the Aurora nursery
IFA Nurseries produces both bareroot and container seedlings. Seedling size at time of planting depends on customer preference, with large seedlings being the most common preference. To ensure high productivity, seed viability and germination rate are checked. Sowing is done in February or March, and seedlings grow for a year before either being released to a customer or sent to the Canby facility for another year of growth and development in the ground. The species of seedlings that IFA Nurseries produces are mainly Douglas fir, Western hemlock, Western red cedar, true firs and Ponderosa pine. After supplying seedlings to customers, IFA Nurseries arranges a tour with each customer to assess seedling performance and to maintain these professional relations.

If you think seedling production is easy, then think again because, despite their successes, IFA Nurseries also faces their own challenges. Such challenges include frequent weeding, which can
Slugzilla enjoying happy hour
significantly increase labor costs. There is also the problem of pests at different stages of production. For example, birds consume the seeds after sowing, while slugs attack seedlings at an early stage after germination. Insecticides are applied every ten days to solve this problem. Heavy rains can also pose a problem, especially at the Canby nursery, where bareroot seedlings are grown.

Lessons Learned

To increase efficiency, some equipment at IFA Nurseries has been built from locally available resources. This has helped to reduce the cost labor. This is a positive development, especially when one’s profit margin is so narrow that acquiring the most advanced and expensive machinery is not feasible. The innovations that are being made are making efficiency attainable in the production process. At times, the forestry industry suffers from a narrow profit margin or no profit at all; therefore, there is a need to find more cost-effective alternatives to some operations.

An International Fellow’s Thoughts and Perspectives

Richard Banda, International Fellow
from Malawi, in his favorite jacket
I work in a plantation back home in Malawi and run a nursery that raises about one million seedlings a year. There are many areas in which my nursery could use some improvement. Visiting a site that produces 10 times more than what I produce was a very good learning platform. Though the practices in Oregon are not exactly the same as what happens in the tropics, most operations are similar. For example, in Malawi, field planting is done between December and April, while in Oregon that’s when sowing is done. I was impressed with the sowing methods, nursery management, and seedling transportation. Though we may not have the same opportunity as far as equipment access is concerned, the Pacific Northwest thinking is something that can help us to improve our operations back home in Malawi.