Re: TH: Tree Micropropogations

 Post-To: Tree-House@Majordomo.Flora.Com (Community Forestry) ----------
Micropropagation has been a great boon to commercial tree producers. 
However it is expensive and difficult for community forestry use.  You
need facilities to sterilize materials and work in an aseptic
(germ-free) environment.

As Richard points out, vegetative propagation, by layering, rooting of
basal cuttings, grafting etc. is much easier.  Layering can be
fascinating, and often an excellent way to regenerate difficult woody
plant material.  Of course, you cannot "copy" a patented cultivar by
layering or any other means.  (You can, however, harvest seeds from a
patented cultivar and grow them legally, as the patent does not apply
once genetic recombination has taken place.)

It seems to me that community forestry ought to focus on production of
trees from seedlings.  What we are aiming for is high urban biodiversity
with as many native species as possible (isn't it?).  If we have 50
species in our town, but each species is represented by a single
genotype, then we haven't really done much for biodiversity. 

The horticulture industry has gone almost exclusively to patented
cultivars because they are profitable, and because horticulturists and
landscape architects can select trees of particular, known form.  Tree
seedlings are considered too variable. In a recent plant catalog, there
were glowing reports that "In the future...more of our garden
ornamentals will come into existence by way of ... techniques discovered
in the laboratory and not by exploration in the field." I think that
would be a shame.

This list is about Community Forestry.  That should be different from
Community Tree Planting or Community Horticulture.  In Forestry, we
concern ourselves with ecosystem services, with biodiversity and with
system stability.  Trees produced from seedlings are less predictable (I
actually like that), but they help us produce forests, rather than

Mark Stephens' efforts in Cincinnati are a superb example of what the
attentive person can accomplish.  You don't need much technical
know-how, or sophisticated equipment.  All you need is a copy of a good
seed book, a refrigerator, and some simple equipment. Among books, the
gold standard is "Seeds of Woody Plants in North America", by JA Young
and CG Young, Dioscorides Press ISBN 0-931146-21-6, $49.95. You can
often find old copies of USDA Ag. Handbook 450, on which the more recent
book is based, in used book shops, or in your local library.   You can
then produce all the trees you could ever want.

I am certainly not trying to discourage any hobbyist who wants to try
vegetative propagation, even micropropagation.  We need to be aware of
the consequences, and community forestry activists should carefully
consider the best strategies.

How 'bout them Kentucky Wildcats?  


Tom Kimmerer
Forest Biologist
University of Kentucky
606-257-1824 (phone)
606-323-1031 (fax)