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Forest 'seed orchard' grows 'fruit'

An orchard just for growing seeds for trees? That's right. Seeds that will grow first into seedlings and then into new stands of timber come out of just such seed orchards that are the heart of the nationwide reforestation program of the Georgia-Pacific Corporation (GP).

Seed orchards are actually stands of "supertrees" grown solely to provide hundred of millions of sees GP uses in its nurseries every year. As one example , in GP's Bastrop, La., seed orchard about 4,500,000 seeds are harvested each year from southern trees to planted to grow into southern pine seedlings.

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Similar harvesting of seeds of varying species of trees goes on in other seed orchards of GP, such as those in northern California, at Ft. Bragg; in Bellingham, Wash.; in Woodland, Maine; and Savannah, Ga., as well as in Bastrop, La. The company has such seed orchards in every major timber region of the US.

But to insure successful seed harvesting there must be research, a major factor in GP's reforestation efforts. This research is centered at GP's Pamplin Forest Research Center, in Cottage Grove, Ore.

A major aim of research at Pamplin is the development of what are knwon as supertrees, trees that can yiedd superior grafts for seed orchard root stock, to produce the very finest kind of seeds.

It was at Cottage Grove that GP developed specialized equipment that has just been shipped to the firm's subsidiary in Indonesia for the first full-scale tropical forest research and reforestation program in the region. The company's large timber concession is at Batu Redi, on the Telen River.

This concession is mostly prime meranti hardwood, which previously had been reforested with the traditional "barefoot" seeding system. Now, seedlings will be mass-produced in new foam-plastic block containers which will allow planting in the jungle in original soil without root disturbance. It is expected that 12 - to 16- inch seedlings will be grown in only three months for planting, giving GP the capacity to grow about four times the number of trees it harvests each year, it was explained.

A "supertree" orchard is also to be developed on the GP Indonesian holdings.

Richard P. Newman, international division vice-president for GP, said that feasibility studies also are under way for a similar program aimed at expanding forest research and reforestation at GP's operations in the Philippines.

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Because of the research into tree genetics at facilities such as GP's Pamplin center, trees that go into sawmills today can be more completely used than ever before, thereby making this renewable resource go further than it ever has before.

As recently as 30 years ago, only about 50 percent of a tree was utilized. Today more than 90 percent is turned into a wide range of end products.

Although every care is taken, from seed to seedling, not every seedling planted grows to harvest maturity, according to the experts. Out of 500 trees usually planted to an acre, only two-thirds reach full growth, which is one reason why such large numbers of seedlings are planted annually.

It is the goal of GP's reforestation program to plant a seedling for every tree that is harvested by the company. This would help insure adequate numbers of trees down through the years.


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