Nebraska Forest Service teamed up with several environmentally-focused agencies to provide area residents an educational experience outdoors during a Forestry Field Day at Horning State Farm Sept. 30.
Partners included Lower Platte South Natural Resource District, Nebraska Arborists Association, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, U.S. Forest Service and Nebraska Environmental Trust.
The public was invited to take the first guided trolley tour through demonstrations of hybrid hazelnut breeding and production research plots, alley cropping demonstrations and white pine timber management demonstrations. A second tour exposed guests to demonstrations of red oak timber management, invasive species management, oak savanna creation and restoration and management of nut trees grown from seed sown directly into the soil.
In addition, guests could watch any of seven demonstrations including proper tree planting, tree climbing, sustainable landscaping, bioblitz, interactive wildfire simulator, portable saw mill and air spade.
As part of the landscaping demonstration, NFS Forest Product Marketing Coordinator Heather Wobert helped plant garden phlox, black-eyed susan, goats beard, Pennsylvania sedge and other plants 12 inches apart and encircling a large tree on the grounds.
“These plants live on the edge of woods and prairie. They tolerate little bits of sun and shade,” explained Landscape Specialist Rachel Anderson.
Randy Dillon of Dillon Tree Service demonstrated the art of tree climbing with rope and saddle equipment. Dillon is one of many trained professions representing the Nebraska Arborists Association.
NFS Program Leader for Forestry Products Utilization Adam Smith demonstrated how logs are processed into lumber products with the use of a portable saw mill.
Nebraska Forest Service Director John Erixson shared information about the stand of hazelnut plants at Horning State Farm.
“We’re testing different hybrids that are a cross between European and American hazelnuts,” he said.
Erixson explained that hazelnuts grow naturally in Nebraska, but the nut they produce is small within a thick shell. While European hazelnuts produce tasty and large filberts they don’t tolerate the cold temperatures and are not resistant to diseases in the state.
“We have several cultivars now that are resistant to the Eastern Filbert Blight and produce large nuts,” he said. “We are working with the Arbor Day Foundation, Rutgers University in New Jersey, University of Nebraska and the National Forest Service on this hazelnut project,” Erixson said.
Erixson also pointed out the stand of Eastern White Pine growing on the farm. “In the 1970s, the University of Nebraska and the U.S. Forest Service planted the Eastern White Pine and some red pine trees. The white pines are subject to blister rust but we don’t have any in Nebraska,” he said.
There are also alley cropping research plots on the farm. “We’re working on harvesting hay in between American chestnut trees and pecan trees,” he said.
Another research project on the farm focuses on the invasive honeysuckle problem. “We’ve cleared it out of areas and we’re working on keeping it from coming back,” Erixson said.
The honeysuckle was originally brought into the country as an ornamental tree due to its attractive red berries, he said. Now, it has spread and is choking out more desirable plants.
Erixson explained the importance of properly planting desired trees. “It used to be that you planted a tree at the same depth as the pot it came in,” he explained.
Today, many trees are mechanically planted and the primary root systems are being buried too far under the soil, when the root system should be just below the soil line.
“We use an air spade. With compressed air, it fractures the soil to expose the root system so we can check the health of the tree. It’s easier on the roots than digging the dirt up around the roots,” he said.
In addition to the research projects, the day also included fire safety demonstrations by Plattsmouth Volunteer Fire Department members and a fire simulator demonstration traditionally used to train rural firefighters.
Smith said NFS hopes to schedule a Forestry Field Day at Horning State Farm on an annual basis.
Horning State Farm Demonstration Forest comprises 240 acres of former crop land that was donated to the University of Nebraska by the Horning sisters in 1948 to be used as a forestry experimentation station. With help from the USDA Forest Service, the property was utilized for tree evaluation research, with plantings and evaluations occurring from 1959 to 1998 when interest in the research had declined. In 1999, the Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) took over management of the property and continued to conduct forestry research, timber stand improvement and other forestry-related activities. In the late 2000s, NFS began working toward developing Horning State Farm into a forestry education center where the public could visit and learn about forest management techniques, agroforestry practices, wildlife habitat management and other forestry-related activities and ideas. Currently, the property houses 21 forestry demonstrations, an interpretive trail system, an arboretum affiliated with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, a hybrid hazelnut research plot and classroom facilities. “The NFS plans to continue to use the property for forestry research and education for public benefit,” said John Duplissis, NFS Rural Forestry Program leader.