Seed Orchards

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Shackleford Orchard (Link to website)

The Margaret Finely Shackelford Hardwood Seed Orchards are located on the Ames Plantation in west Tennessee. Mrs. Shackelford was a native of Holly Springs, Mississippi and had a strong interest in wildlife and hardwood forests. Her ancestral home, Strawberry Plains Plantation, is now a 2000 acre Aubudon Society sanctuary and education center. In keeping with Mrs. Shackelford's wishes, the Shackelford seed orchards on the Ames Plantation contain species that produce saw timber and/or mast and habitat for wildlife. These orchards are being gradually established as genetic tests on a 65-acre dedicated upland site, the Margaret Finely Shackelford Hardwood Orchard Complex, and on various bottomland hardwood sites that comprise an additional 30 acres. Over time, the genetic tests will be thinned to produce seedling seed orchards. Seeds from these orchards will be locally adapted and genetically improved for both nursery and field performance and will be suitable for planting in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and eastern Arkansas. In addition, the orchards will provide a model for the development and management of other hardwood orchards that will serve different parts of the country. Professors Allan Houston (University of Tennessee - Ames Plantation) and Schlarbaum are the co-leaders of this effort.

The Shackelford Orchards are being created from localized (western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and eastern Arkanasa) seed collections from naturally occurring trees. The seed is planted in experimental designs at the Georgia Forestry Commission's Flint River Nursery, using fertilization and irrigation protocols developed by Dr. Paul P. Kormanik (USDA Forest Service, retired) to allow hardwood seedlings to grow to their maximum potential in one year. This causes a range in seedling size and quality, thereby allowing selection of the highest quality seedlings for the Shackelford Orchards.

Creation of the orchards is following three major approaches:
(Phase 1) Orchards established from local seed collections: These orchards will be established with containerized seedlings that have been selected for nursery growth. The seedlings will be held for two years in containers and planted on an orchard spacing. The plantings will be irrigated and fertilized to promote rapid fruiting that will meet immediate research and nursery needs for locally adapted seed. Professor Dan Struve, Ohio State University, has assisted with the containerized portion of this approach.

(Phase 2) Orchards from thinned genetic tests: These orchards will produce locally adapted seed improved for nursery and field performance. The genetic tests were planted with seedlings selected for nursery growth and will be monitored for 7-10 years before conversion to seedling seed orchards.

(Phase 3) Grafted seed orchards: The seed orchards will produce locally adapted seed with the greatest genetic gain for nursery and field performance. The best trees in the genetic tests will be selected for grafting to form these orchards.

Considerable progress has been made since this effort began in 2001, with establishment of containerized nursery selections and genetic tests of different species. Species planted in Phase 1 are: cherrybark oak, pin oak, black walnut, Shumard oak, Nuttall oak, southern red oak, black oak, willow oak, water oak, and bur oak. Northern red oak seedlings, originating from the Ames Plantation Northern Red Oak Orchard, were selected for nursery performance in 2002, containerized for two years and planted in 2004. Genetic studies have been established for: water oak , willow oak, white oak, Shumard oak, pin oak, bur oak, cherrybark oak, southern red oak, and black oak.