Purdue University, U.S. Forest Service partnership develops faster-growing hardwood tree varieties trademarked for commercialization as Greatwoods

Audrey Dixon

Audrey Dixon

Apr 23, 2012 – Business Wire

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana , April 23, 2012 (press release) – Industries associated with hardwood growth and production may benefit from trademarked varieties of trees developed through a partnership between Purdue University and the U.S. Forest Service.

“There had been a lot of production of sugar cane, pineapple and cattle in Hawaii in the past, but almost all of that is gone”

Created in 1998, the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC) is developing several varieties of trees under the Greatwoods™ name including black cherry, black walnut, red oak and white oak. The center has a staff of 60, including 25 Purdue graduate students.

Charles H. Michler, HTIRC director and a Purdue adjunct professor of forestry, and his colleagues breed trees for specific traits to increase planting and production.

"Production has to increase to keep up with the industry," Michler said. "Urbanization and the price of land and crops are forcing farmers to grow more trees with less land. The Greatwoods program was developed to address this issue of increasing hardwood production."

Greatwoods grow six-tenths of an inch in diameter a year while wild trees grow about a quarter inch over the same time. They also grow 2 percent taller a year than wild trees. Greatwoods also are bred for a reduced number of knots and an improved taper, which encourages consistent volume of growth to the top.

Michler said Greatwoods can produce veneer, which is free of knots and worth more than lumber.

"Hardwoods are sold on quality. They aren't a commodity like pine that is sold by the pound," he said. "The price range depends on the quality of the wood, and we're doing research to produce the highest quality."

The HTIRC also is developing trees that show improved disease resistance. Michler and his colleagues have developed some individual butternut trees that are resistant to butternut canker; they are close to developing American chestnut trees that are resistant to chestnut blight.

HTIRC has started a center in Hawaii to improve acacia koa, which is the world's most valuable wood and is important to Hawaiian culture.

"There had been a lot of production of sugar cane, pineapple and cattle in Hawaii in the past, but almost all of that is gone," Michler said. "Now there is vacant land that used to be acacia koa forests, which the state would like to replenish. Sen. Richard Lugar and Sen. Daniel Inouye have worked together to create the Tropical Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, and there are Purdue graduate students working on projects there."

Michler said improved hardwood production benefits private farm owners, their families and people who work in the forest products manufacturing industry.

"There is a lot of secondary production done with hardwoods in the state," he said. "We have a very viable resource that creates literally and figuratively some of the greenest products around."

Trademarked Greatwoods varieties of hardwoods and their seeds can be licensed through Jon Gortat, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, 765-588-3485, jdgortat@prf.org

A video about Greatwoods can be viewed at http://youtu.be/9P6At_PfhL0

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