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Plant Materials 2010 Activities

The Cape May Plant Materials Center (PMC) serves a nine state area extending from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Wilmington, North Carolina. This Center develops plant technologies and solutions for natural resource concerns pertaining to coastal shorelines, sand dunes, mined lands and critical areas, and coastal grassland habitat. The center is located west of Avalon, New Jersey and is adjacent to New Jersey’s most expansive estuaries.


Timber Germplasm switchgrass

Chris Smith identifies biomass samples at Cape May PMCTimber Germplasm is an eastern ecotype switchgrass which was selected at the Cape May Plant Materials Center for its high biomass production. While most switchgrass selections produce between 3-6 tons of dry matter/acre, Timber has the potential to produce 8-10 tons/acre, reducing the acreage needed to produce a viable energy crop.

Photo of biomass samples in photo at right, from left to right: Timber switchgrass, Carthage switchgrass, Atlantic coastal panicgrass , Gateway switchgrass, and High tide switchgrass.

PMC Participates in Pollinator Study

Field plantings were established at the Cape May Plant Materials Center Fall 2009 in support of a study underway by Rachael Winfree, Assistant Professor from Rutgers University’s Department of Entomology. From April – October 2010, a research technician hired by the Winfree lab and funded by the CIG grant worked full time on the project and collected data on the pollinator species visiting each plot. The project included field plots of 20 plant species and season-long observations to determine their attractiveness to pollinators and their suitability for Farm Bill programs.

The following data were collected:

  • Observations of insects visiting each plot were made on 3 separate days per plot during the peak bloom of the plant. A total of 543 Diptera (flies), 877 Lepidoptera (butterflies), and 3145 Hymenoptera (bees and wasps) were recorded.
  • Pollinator insects were collected by net from each plot on 3 separate days per plot during the peak bloom of the plant. All specimens have been pinned, fully labeled and bar coded, and identified. Bees have been identified to the species level, butterflies to the genus level, and other taxa to the family or genus level. A total of 187 Diptera, 275 Lepidoptera, and 1816 Hymenoptera were collected.
  • Some of the top species for attracting native pollinators are: narrow leaf mountain mint, swamp milkweed, Great blue lobelia, New England aster, and Black-eyed susan.
Swamp milkweed Great Blue Lobelia Black eyed susan
Swamp milkweed Great Blue Lobelia Black eyed susan

Monarch Germplasm Seaside Goldenrod
Monarch Seaside Goldenrod The most recent release of plant materials to the commercial market is a selection of seaside goldenrod called ‘Monarch’. This plant, which occurs naturally on the sand dunes, is a major nectar (energy ) source for migrating Monarch butterflies as well as being a good late season pollinator plant for a wide variety of insects. In addition, it serves as a good stabilization plant for the back dune areas.
Monarch Seaside Goldenrod production  

Sunn Hemp Cover Crop Evaluation
Collecting Sunn Hemp growth Sunn Hemp, a tropical plant
The Center is participating in a national Plant Materials Program cover crop study evaluating the growth parameters and potential uses of Sunn Hemp, a tropical plant, as a summer cover crop. Organic producers are particularly interested in this plant since it produces up to 140 lbs./ac. nitrogen, as well as provides natural weed and nematode control.