Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Forestland Conservation Review

We recently published online an update on current forest conservation topics in the Commonwealth. Our October edition includes: what’s ahead for forestland conservation; what are conservation values; family forest landowners hold the key to sustaining Virginia’s woodlands; new tools to finance forestland conservation; addressing today’s forestry issues through utilization and marketing; no place like “homeplace,” and introducing Kim Biasiolli, forest conservation specialist.

 To read this issue, download it  from our website under the heading "Forest Conservation."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tree seedling sales for the this season

We expect high demand for the limited quantities of our loblolly pine seedlings this year. If you're interested in purchasing our specialty seedlings you should visit www.buyvirginiatrees.com and setup an account prior to the opening date for the online store, October 14 at 10 a.m.

We have limited nursery staff, so we don't recommend you call the nursery to place these orders. Tax-exempt customers should call the nursery prior to October 14 and setup their account with their tax-exempt credentials. Sales tax cannot be refunded. Customers can call the Garland Gray Forestry Center at 804.834.2855. To reach the Augusta Forestry Center, call 540.363.7000 or 540.363.5732.

All of VDOF’s loblolly pine seedlings provide growth gains over unimproved seedlings. The top three loblolly pine varieties are best suited for landowners who utilize silvicultural treatments, such as site preparation and woody vegetation control, on their pine stands as part of their sawtimber rotation. The actual growth gains of each loblolly family depend on the planting site, soil type and these expected treatments.

All seedling varieties will be available for sale through the online store when it opens October 14.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grant funds tree biomass crop research

Grant recipients at Virginia Tech received $1.4 million to investigate the genetic regulatory networks that will allow an important bioenergy crop to be bred so it will grow in less than ideal soils and

Populus, a genus of fast-growing trees, produces a significant amount of biomass in two years. Woody biomass can be converted to liquid fuels, such as ethanol.

“There has not been a market for it in the southeastern U.S., but there could be,” said Amy Brunner, associate professor of molecular genetics in the College of Natural Resources and Environment and an affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute. “It could also be a resource for power, pulp and paper.”

Read more about this project at http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/08/081914-cnre-brunnergrant.html

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gov. McAuliffe: No fracking in George Washington National Forest

Citing assurances from federal officials, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said fracking for natural gas will not be allowed in the George Washington National Forest.

"I won't allow it as long as I'm governor," McAuliffe told the inaugural meeting of a climate change panel he created this summer. "We made it clear to everyone we will not allow fracking in our national forest. I'm not going to allow it."

The Forest Service initially proposed a ban on fracking in the forest, but it was met with opposition by the energy industry. Opponents fear the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will bow to the industry pressure. The decision rests with the USDA, which oversees the Forest Service.

Environmental and conservation groups have rallied against any fracking in the forest, which lies primarily in Virginia but also includes a sliver of West Virginia. They fear polluting the headwaters of a primary water source for the region and the industrial footprint drilling would bring.

The science on the impact of fracking has not been conclusive.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tree Nurseries Seek Acorns and Seeds

The Virginia Department of Forestry needs your help to continue producing quality seedlings for Virginia landowners. Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will grow well in our state. Every year, we ask for your help in locating and collecting acorns and other seed from all over the state. Your donations help us produce the next season’s crop. Seed collection is a great activity for children and adults! It also allows individuals to learn more about Virginia trees.

See what we're looking for this year (pretty much the same as last year) http://www.dof.virginia.gov/trees/acorn-collect.htm

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Emerald Ash Borer found in more Virginia counties

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has been detected in four additional Virginia counties. The newly infested counties include Alleghany, Bath, Fauquier and Page.

EAB has now been detected in 21 Virginia counties and seven cities since its initial appearance in Fairfax County in 2003. The entire Commonwealth of Virginia is under a federal EAB quarantine. The federal quarantine prohibits the interstate movement of regulated articles such as ash logs, ash nursery stock and firewood since these articles have the potential to move the Emerald Ash Borer to areas that are not infested.

EAB is a highly destructive, invasive beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in the US and Canada. Ash trees comprise approximately 1.7% of Virginia’s forests by volume, which amounts to roughly 187 million ash trees, all susceptible to EAB. The EAB larva chews into the soft layer of wood beneath the bark, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients. Trees infected with EAB eventually die. EAB in the larval stage are difficult to detect as they feed under the tree bark enabling them to hitch a ride undetected to uninfested areas when people transport firewood or other infested wood products.

Dr. Chris Asaro, forest health specialist with the Virginia Department of Forestry said, “Options for protecting individual ash trees from EAB are available.  People with very large, valuable ash trees would be advised to contact a certified arborist who can treat these individual trees with an effective insecticide every two to three years.  Treating these valuable trees is far less expensive than removing a very large, dead tree.  Unfortunately, there are no practical management options for EAB in a forested setting.”  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture website shows a map of quarantined states and areas, and more information on EAB and other invasive pests is available at http://www.hungrypests.com/.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Oak Galls on White Oak Trees in Northern Virginia Counties

Homeowners in six Northern Virginia counties have expressed concern about defoliated white oak trees.  Forestry officials have conducted aerial and ground surveys and determined that, while this occurrence is fairly widespread, it is concentrated in and around the hills of western Fauquier County and adjacent Loudoun County.  Portions of Prince William, Culpeper, Orange and Rappahannock counties are also affected.

The culprit appears to be a very tiny insect known as a gall wasp. There are many species of gall wasps, particularly those that affect oak trees. This type of insect injects eggs into plant tissue, which forms a swelling or ‘gall’ around the injection site. Inside a hollow space within the gall, the developing egg hatches into a larva, and ultimately emerges from the gall as an adult wasp, repeating the cycle one or more times each year depending on the species. Each species of gall wasp specializes on a particular host and plant part, and each species produces a unique gall. Thus, there are a wide variety of plant galls that differ in shape, size, color, texture and the part of the plant affected (leaves, twigs, buds, flowers, etc).  

While gall wasps are a normal component of every forest ecosystem, they are generally kept under control by other insects and are not typically abundant enough to cause serious damage to trees and shrubs. However, in rare instances they can become so abundant that their galls can cause noticeable damage.

Read more about this occurrence on our website at http://dof.virginia.gov/press/releases/2014/08-11-white-oak-galls.htm

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Info Signs on the Conway Robinson State Forest

Visitors to the Conway Robinson State Forest can add a “high tech” dimension to their outdoor experience. Informational signs on the forest have been updated to include QR codes. These postage stamp-sized graphics, composed of black-and-white square dots, can guide visitors to information about forest management activities, including promoting wildlife, combating invasive plants and deer control. Visitors simply use their smartphone’s QR reader application to scan the codes and access to the content.

This project is designed to grant visitors an inside look at management on both the state forest and the adjacent National Park Service’s (NPS) Manassas National Battlefield Park.

 “Although the forest and the battlefield may appear to be untouched outdoor spaces, they’re actually carefully planned and maintained by natural resource professionals,” said Blake Jordan, area forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “Not only are these wonderful sites for recreation, but they can teach the public about caring for our natural world. The QR codes allow access to more detailed and descriptive information beyond what can be included on the signs.”

For those who want to learn about the trail from home, the Manassas LEAF website also provides an in-depth explanation of each topic, along with information about the LEAF partnership.

The Manassas LEAF (Link to Education About Forests) partnership is a joint effort of the NPS’ Manassas National Battlefield Park, the VDOF’s Conway Robinson State Forest, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District Natural Resources Program.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


The Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation and Adaptation Project (PINEMAP) uses research and education to help southern pine landowners manage forests. Through VDOF’s membership in the Forest Productivity Cooperative, one of PINEMAP’s four primary research installations is at Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest.
These tests are designed to evaluate the effects of climate change, soils and management approaches on planted pine carbon sequestration rates.  The results could better prepare us to manage pine forests in response to predicted climate change scenarios and help improve our knowledge of how best to apply thinning and fertilizer treatments to mid-rotation stands.

The annual report for PINEMAP contains updates on all aspects of the effort, including the research, outreach and education tools. The project is funded by the largest grant ever awarded to productivity research in southern pine.

To learn more about PINEMAP and to read the report, visit http://www.pinemap.org/.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

VDOF Seedling Unlocks The Largest Genetic Code Ever Sequenced

Using a Virginia Department of Forestry tree seedling, a team of scientists from across the nation has decoded the genome of a loblolly pine tree.  With 22 Billion base pairs, this is the largest genome ever sequenced (in comparison, the human genome has 3 Billion base pairs).

Led by Dr. David Neale, professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, the scientific team – using the tissue from a single VDOF pine seedling – broke down the tree’s DNA into smaller, more manageable data pieces and analyzed them with a super-computer.  The team then re-assembled the pieces, figured out which genes were present, where they are on the genome, and what they do.  This new approach, developed at the University of Maryland, enabled researchers to perform such a large and complex genome sequencing.

“It’s a huge genome,” said Dr. Neale.  “But the challenge isn’t just collecting all the sequence data.  The problem is assembling that sequence into order.  The contribution of loblolly pine tree selection 20-1010 from the Virginia Department of Forestry was critically important not only for the genome sequencing, but more so for all those who follow and will now have completely open access to data and germplasm resources.  Researchers worldwide should be very grateful to the Virginia Department of Forestry.”

The Loblolly pine, grown in the orchard at VDOF’s New Kent Forestry Center, was selected for sequencing because of its broad distribution, economic value and long history of genetic research.

Jerre Creighton, VDOF’s research program coordinator, said, “Loblolly pine is the most common tree species in Virginia and the most commercially important tree in the United States.  It’s the primary source of pulpwood (used to make paper) and sawtimber (lumber).  Today, Loblolly pine is being developed as a potential feedstock for the emerging biofuel industry.”

The results of this research will help scientists breed improved varieties of Loblolly pines, some of which will be more resistant to pathogens, such as fusiform rust – the most damaging disease of southern pines.

“The possibilities are endless now that we know the Loblolly pine genome,” said Creighton.  “And what an honor for the Virginia Department of Forestry to have been selected to provide the tree that unlocked the vast genetic code of this important species!”

In addition to UC Davis and the University of Maryland, the research team was comprised of scientists from Johns Hopkins University, Indiana University – Bloomington, Texas A&M University, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Washington State University.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hike Virginia’s State Forests; June 7 is National Trails Day

Forestry officials invite citizens out to Virginia’s state forests to celebrate National Trails Day June 7.

Many of Virginia’s 23 state forests offer miles of trails for walking, hiking and bird watching. Trails allow for recreation and are a great way to get the public to increase their physical activity in an outdoor setting. Trail users can explore in solitude and find peace and tranquility. Or, join family or friends for an outdoor social activity.

Passive recreational opportunities, such as walking, hiking and canoeing, are provided free of charge. Horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and trapping all require a State Forest Use Permit when persons 16 years and older enjoy these activities on a state forest.

Located in the Richmond area, the Appomattox-Buckingham, Cumberland, Zoar and Prince Edward – Gallion state forests offer more than 60 miles of trails. A complete list of state forests can be found on the Virginia Department of Forestry website at http://dof.virginia.gov.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ring Named State Forester of Virginia

Bettina Ring has been appointed State Forester by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Ring most recently served as Senior Vice President of Family Forests at the American Forest Foundation where she was responsible for overseeing the American Tree Farm System®, the largest and oldest sustainable woodland program  in America, supporting more than 80,000 family forest owners collectively managing 27 million acres of certified woodlands.

Ms. Ring has a long history in the conservation and forestry sectors, having spent 14 years at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), departing the agency in 2001 as Deputy State  Forester.  In her role, Ms. Ring was responsible for operations, and helped to develop and implement a new mission, vision and strategic plan for the department. In the years following her VDOF service, Ms. Ring held various leadership positions within nonprofit organizations focusing on natural resources management and conservation, including the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, The Wilderness Land Trust and the Bay Area Open Space Council. Ring holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry and wildlife from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in business administration from James Madison University.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cankerworms Expected to Make Return Visit to Richmond Area

As spring finally arrives in the Richmond region, fall cankerworms are expected to return this month with a vengeance, according to officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

For the past two years, people in the area have complained about the worms hanging from silken strands in their yards and crawling over everything.  In areas where infestations are heavy, people can even hear them eating the leaves off their trees (the sound is actually due to the worms’ frass [bug poop] falling from the trees).

“While cankerworms aren’t harmful to people, they can be a great nuisance or cause distress to those who have a particular aversion to insects,” said Dr. Chris Asaro, VDOF’s forest health specialist.  “The real problem is the defoliation they can cause.  Typically, one year of heavy defoliation will not greatly harm an otherwise healthy tree, but with two or three straight years of heavy defoliation, tree death becomes much more common.”

Homeowners have just a short time to protect vulnerable trees.

Dave Terwilliger, VDOF’s area forester in Hanover County, said, “There’s a relatively non-toxic insecticide called B.t. that homeowners can have sprayed on trees to control cankerworm, but it must be applied soon after the cankerworms’ eggs hatch to be effective.  The best time to do that spraying is when the host tree’s leaves begin emerging.  If you wait until you see defoliation, it’s too late for B.t. to be effective and the damage is already done.”

Cankerworms become moths, which begin emerging from the ground in the fall.  Female moths are wingless and flightless, and they climb to the tops of trees to lay their eggs.  This occurs between November and March.  In December 2013, VDOF officials wrapped a band of plastic covered with a sticky substance around the base of 70 trees between Richmond and Fredericksburg to monitor the female moths.  As the moths attempt to climb to the top of the trees, they become caught in the sticky bands.  Counting the number of female moths in the bands serves as an indicator of potential spring defoliation levels.

Dr. Asaro said, “Typically, catching more than 100 female moths per tree during the winter would suggest heavy defoliation in the spring.  Most of the trees we banded had several hundred female moths with some approaching 1,000 female moths per tree.”

Large cankerworm outbreaks are often sustained for only a year or two before their population crashes due to natural enemies, such as birds, disease, insect predators and parasites.  During the past couple of years, however, cankerworm activity has spanned more than 2 million acres in eastern Virginia.

According to Dr. Asaro, such an expansive infestation over several years has never been reported before in this region.

“On a broad scale, the current outbreak seems to be self-sustaining, and it’s not clear when a complete population crash will finally occur,” he said.  “Due to the limited dispersal of the adult moths, outbreaks tend to recur in the same areas over many decades.”

Homeowners who wish to protect the trees on their property from fall cankerworms are urged to take action now.  The focus for protection should be high-value landscape trees, particularly oaks, which are a preferred food source for cankerworms.  Contact a professional arborist to perform the spraying operation.

Dr. Asaro said, “In ecological terms, cankerworms and other defoliators can have a beneficial effect on the forest by providing a food source for birds and other wildlife.  In addition, all that frass falling to the ground restores nutrients to the soil, which trees can recover through their root systems.  Most trees will re-foliate quickly and fully recover from defoliation.  The general public should not be too concerned about environmental impacts from this pest.”