2009 Cone Harvest Ponderosa Pine Seed Orchard
The Willamette Valley Ponderosa Pine Seed Orchard is part of the native Gene Conservancy located at the ODF-managed Schroeder Seed Orchard near St. Paul. The Seed Orchard is now moving into a phase of regular and abundant seed production. Established in the mid-1990’s with both half-sib (from known mother trees) seedling stock and with grafts of other selected trees, the first small crop was produced in 2003. Seed production has increased each successive year, reaching an impressive 130 lbs for the 2009 crop. Figure 1 shows how seed production in the Willamette Valley Pine Orchard has increased dramatically since 2003.
On a per bushel basis, yields have been running in the range of 0.4 – 0.5 lbs/bu. As the orchard continues to mature and more pollen is produced, in the absence of increasing insect pressure (primarily Conophthorus), seed yields per bushel should increase significantly.
The seedling yield in Valley Ponderosa Pine is about 3500/lb, so to date the seed produced has the potential to produce more than 700,000 seedlings. According to the Willamette Valley Ponderosa Pine Conservation Association (WVPPCA) Memorandum of Understanding, 50% of the seed produced is reserved for the members. So far, members and non-members have purchased almost 50 lbs of orchard seed, enough to produce 175,000 seedlings.
It is clear that the Willamette Valley Pine Orchard is entering a very productive stage. At the same time, the orchard trees are growing quite large in size, resulting in crowding and shading of tree crowns. To maintain the productive potential of the orchard trees, the two blocks were thinned in the fall of 2009 to improve access, open up crowns to increase flowering and seed production.
To plan for the practical and economic management of the Willamette Valley Ponderosa Pine Orchard, it will be important for the Association members to better estimate their seed requirements into the future. As it stands now, the orchard is very likely much larger than needed to meet expected seed needs. The WVPPCA Executive Committee will carefully review seed requirements from members to better assist the Schroeder staff in long term orchard planning and management..