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Activities at Cape May Plant Materials Center (PMC)

red clover, often used as cover cropCover Crops for Soil Health on the Coastal Plain – a field day workshop

Sponsored by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and Cape Atlantic Conservation District

USDA NRCS Cape May Plant Materials Center
1536 Route 9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ
October 18, 2012
8:30 AM – 3:30 PM

Registration will remain open until October 15, but will be limited to 75 participants. To register send $10 registration fee (payable to “Cape Atlantic Conservation District”) and a completed registration form to Cape Atlantic Conservation District, 6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. Registration form can be faxed to Cape Atlantic Conservation District at 609-625-7360 prior to mailing it with payment.

Please include request for reasonable accommodation and any dietary requirements with your registration.

  • Who should attend: Growers and ag professionals - Six Nutrient Management CEUs from Maryland Department of Agriculture are available.
  • Topics to include: alternative cover crops, cover crop mixes, leaf mulching, season high tunnel cover crops, annual and perennial cover crops, N fixing cover crops, seeding rates, cover crops with black plastic mulch, cover crop establishment equipment
  • Cost: $10 registration fee includes morning coffee and snacks, box lunch, handouts, and more.
  • Reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities is available.

Getting to the Cape May Plant Materials Center

map showing location of Cape May Plant Materials CenterThe Cape May PMC is located two miles north of the town of Cape May Court House and 5 miles west of Avalon, New Jersey. The Center is located between Route 9 and the Garden State Parkway, ½ mile south of Avalon Boulevard. Coming from the north or south, we are located off Exit 13 of the Garden State Parkway. At the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto Avalon Boulevard after the stop sign. Go approximately ½ mile to the intersection of Route 9 (T-intersection). Go left (south) on Route 9. The Plant Materials Center is ½ mile on left hand side of road. Look for the large white, green and blue sign with the USDA-NRCS logo. Center phone is (609) 465-5901.
sign at the Cape May Plant Materials Center

To register

Send $10 registration fee (payable “Cape Atlantic Conservation District”) and completed registration form (below) to:

Cape Atlantic Conservation District
6260 Old Harding Highway
Mays Landing, New Jersey 08330
Phone: (609) 625-3144
Fax: (609) 625-7360

Please include request for reasonable accommodation and any dietary requirements with your registration.

Documents requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Flier and Registration Form (236 kb)

Workshop Agenda - (179 kb)

Cover Crops for Soil Health on the Coastal Plain
8:30 Registration and coffee  
9:00 Welcome, Introduction

Welcome from USDA-NRCS (Chris Miller), Rutgers Ag Exp. Station (Jack Rabin), and Cape Atlantic Conservation District (Supervisor Allen Carter, Jr. or Rick Dovey)

9:10 Coastal Plain soils: Unique challenges and opportunities Richard Shaw and Edwin Muńiz
9:30 Cover Crop and organic matter: soil health benefits

Eileen Miller

10:00 Winter killed cover crops and early seedbed properties Natalie Lounsbury
University of Maryland
10:30 Break  
10:45 Cover crop water quality benefits in intensive production

Pamela Rice
USDA Ag Research Service

11:15 Leaf mulching soil health and economic benefits

Jack Rabin
Rutgers Ag Exp. Station

11:45 Cover crop species and mixes- characteristics and management Ramona Gardner
12:30 Lunch and visit equipment displays  
1:30 Field tours of cover crop and leaf mulching demo plots including wildlife damage control  
3:00 Final wrap up and workshop evaluation  
3:30 Drive safely!  

Cape May PMC Honored with Coastal America Spirit Award

plant materials used for restorationAward Winning Project Leads to New Technologies
On Thursday, September 22, 2011, New Jersey NRCS State Conservationist Donald J. Pettit, joined project partners for an inspection of the large-scale marsh restoration project recently completed in the Gateway National Recreation Area, Jamaica Bay. The Cape May Plant Materials Center assisted with propagation of native plant species for the project that was awarded the Coastal America Spirit Award.

September 2011 - The USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Materials Centers of Cape May, NJ, Beltsville, MD, Alderson, WV, and Rose Lake, MI, have been recognized by Coastal America for their role in the Jamaica Bay Marsh Islands Restoration Project. The large-scale restoration in the Gateway National Recreation Area of Jamaica Bay, situated in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, New York City, began in 2005 and is ongoing. The restoration of 43 acres at Elders East, a marsh island in the bay and the first phase of the project, was selected for the Coastal America Spirit Award.

On Thursday, September 22, 2011, NRCS State Conservationist Don Pettit accepted the Coastal America Spirit Award from Army Brigadier General Peter A. DeLuca, the Army Corps’ former North Atlantic Division commander aboard the Army Corps vessel Hayward in conjunction with the New York District’s Harbor inspection of the completed marsh islands restoration project. Other award recipients who participated in the inspection included the Army Corps’ New York District, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, National Park Service (Gateway), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. NRCS State Resource Conservationist Tim Dunne and Plant Materials Specialist Chris Miller participated in the inspection, as well.  (See press release)

PMC Role

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Cape May Plant Materials Center (PMC) was commissioned by the Army Corps of Engineers-New York District to assist with the propagation of native plant species for the restoration project in the bay. Seeds were collected on site by Cape May PMC staff in order to preserve the genetic-plant resources of the national park. Norman A. Berg National Plant Materials Center in Beltsville, MD; Appalachian Plant Materials Center in Alderson, WV and Rose Lake Plant Materials Center in East Lansing, MI, and the Cape May Plant Material Center produced the plants used in the restoration..

Installing plants at Jamaica Bay sitePlantings were installed at Elders Point East and West to slow erosion of the marsh islands. Seed collection is underway for the Yellow Bar Island phase of the project.  An estimated 2500 acres had already disappeared, and it was projected that without intervention the islands would almost entirely erode within 20 years. The loss of these areas would have a negative impact on the local communities, and devastate wildlife.

2 inch plugAs a result of this undertaking, the Cape May Plant Materials Center has developed plant technology including; refining procedures for collecting, cleaning, and storing seed of tidal marsh species, direct seeding trials of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) in dredged sand, and development of a more successful “deep” planting plug that allows for quick rooting in a high energy environment.

Project partners included the US Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service; SUNY Stony Brook, Marine Sciences Research Center; USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, USDOC/NOAA/NMFS; NYSDEC; New York City Department of Environmental Protection; Port Authority of New York New Jersey; NYS Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources.

About the Award

The Coastal America Awards Program is a component of the Federal Partnership, consisting of twelve Federal Agencies, that recognizes outstanding efforts and excellence in leadership for protecting, preserving and restoring the nation's coastal resources and ecosystems. Established in 1997, Coastal America Awards are presented on an annual basis. The Spirit Award recognizes exceptional projects that demonstrate the “spirit” of teamwork for group efforts that address challenging coastal issues that are limited to regional partnering efforts.

Award nomination text:
map of project areaThe Elders Point Restoration Project has and will continue to provide a unique collaboration of both governmental agencies and non-governmental agencies with innovative partnerships that continue the restoration of the Marsh Islands within Jamaica Bay. The restoration of Elders Point East and Elders Point West by utilizing Jamaica Bay sourced plant material, either propagated or transplanted, will help to preserve the genetic integrity of the vegetation within the Bay. The construction of Elders Point East has stabilized the island footprint thus protecting and preserving the marsh from being lost like so many other islands in the bay. These actions provide a unique educational value as in Gateway National Recreation Area, where over 9 million people visited last year alone. The large scale of this project makes it highly visible to any visitor heading to the Jamaica Bay Visitors Center, which holds events and exhibits focusing on the coastal ecosystem of Jamaica Bay. These 40 plus acres of new marsh directly contributes to the Coastal America mission of restoring and preserving coastal resources. As a result the project was avidly promoted by the Regional Mid Atlantic Regional Implementation Team.

Cape May PMC Activity Reports

The following documents require Adobe Acrobat.

2007 PMC Activity Report (360 kb)
2006 PMC Activity Report  (728 kb)

Cape May PMC Newsletter

Cape May Plant Materials Center Newsletter FY 2007, Quarter 1 (333 kb)
Cape May Plant Materials Center Newsletter FY 2006, Quarter 1 (319 kb)

Cape May PMC Featured Activities

Cape May Plant Materials Center is assisting with restoration at Wanchese Harbor.  The following article and photos appeared in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers June 2007 newsletter. The entire newsletter is available as a PDF file
Wilmington District News Online, June 2007 (2MB)

Through Trial and Error, Wanchese Harbor Project Off to a Good Start
Biology and Engineering Working in Tandem

It’s only 10 acres in size, but it’s making a huge mark in ecosystem restoration in North Carolina.

Coastal wetlands that used to exist helped protect the entrance at Wanchese Harbor from erosion, had whittled down over the years to a thin strip of vegetation that was incapable of stopping further erosion. In addition, it ceased being a sanctuary for small creatures. It threatened not only the harbor entrance that leads fishermen to open ocean, but the North Carolina Seafood Industrial Park as well. Then the Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Interagency Work Group stepped in to offer a solution; a project that would give Wilmington District biologists and engineers an opportunity to use dredged material from a nearby navigation channel to restore the estuarine habitat and protect the remaining marsh.

“The Wanchese Harbor is an important harbor area,” said Wilmington District Marine Biologist Chuck Wilson. “We used dredged material from the navigation channel to try and stop erosion and bring back the ecological balance that was once there.”

So far, Wilson said the project is working. Plants are thriving, and a variety of waterfowl are beginning to investigate the man-made area. However, the initial stages of the project were a guessing game of trying to build an ecosystem from scratch. Through adaptive management the team found an excellent formula that worked.

comparing root systems of plants PMC Plant Manager Bill Skaradek at Wanchese high tide at site Samples of planted marsh grasses displayed

Part of recreating a wetlands area is knowing plant survivability. The live plant on the right has a more developed root system.
Chuck Wilson photo

Bill Skaradek from the US Department of Agriculture examines test plots of US Government grown plants at the Wanchese Harbor restoration site.
Chuck Wilson photo

Wilson and MAJ Hilliard inspect the contours of the site at normal high tide.
Bill Dennis photo

Skaradek shows Chuck Wilson (left) and Project Manager MAJ Rob Hilliard samples of recently planted marsh grasses that are thriving at the site.
Bill Dennis photo

Bill Dennis helped design the Wanchese Harbor Project. “The most difficult thing we had to work with was the different sediments that eventually got into the basin,” he said. “There was a whole range of coarse sands, silt, and clay, quite a mixture. To come up with a way to contour the area to meet specific elevation requirements with all of that mix was difficult. There was a lot of ‘guesstimation’ as well. So it took some effort on the construction side because we needed something stable that we could smooth into the contours.”

From an engineering standpoint Dennis said the key was to establish and maintain the right elevation so plants would take root and be able to exist in the fluctuating tide as nature had intended. From the biological side, Wilson said a combination of hard science, intuition and applying what they had learned from restoring shoreline marsh at Festival Park gave them insight into how the plants would probably grow with the unpredictable fluctuation of the tide. The thriving growth of the recently planted marsh grasses was a good indicator of the overall health of the emerging ecosystem, and it also was a good sign that the elevations grade and planting operations were correct.

“The marsh grasses are growing well, and we have about 90 percent survival of plants. Ducks and geese are already using the new marsh which is a good sign of it being a potential wildlife habitat. We just hope they don’t graze too much.”

Wilson said the majority of those plants were provided by a planting contractor. However, a portion came from the Cape May Plant Material Center in New Jersey, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-run facility. He said the plants grown in New Jersey were used in conjunction with a contractor’s plants to establish test plots for quality control.

“If there was any catastrophic plant mortality, the test plots could help us determine if it was a problem with the plants or the site conditions. If the contractor’s plants died, but the government plants lived, it would indicate that it was a problem with the plants and not a problem with the design.”

Wilson added that Bill Skaradek of the Cape May facility will use test plots to look at the performance or different nursery-grown plant containers in these tough growing conditions. One benefit that is already noticeable is that plants with deeper roots may prevent geese from pulling the plants up, minimizing damage.

The success of the Wanchese Harbor Project is a good example of how engineering and biology work together for ecosystem restoration. For Dennis and Wilson it was an opportunity to somewhat cross train to get a better idea of how all the pieces of the project were put together.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” stated Dennis. “We learned a lot from each other. I learned what plant species grew there, and Chuck is learning the engineering side of using riprap; how high to stack them and where to place them.”

The big picture is that this 10-acre USACE project is one small part of an overall plan by various state agencies and private organizations to help protect and preserve North Carolina’s coastal ecosystems. The overall goal, Wilson said, is to help restore the Albemarle/Pamlico Sound National Estuary.

“The State of North Carolina Division of Marine Resources, the Coastal Federation and the Nature Conservancy are building oyster reefs and similar projects in the estuary. All our joint work is a step in the right direction for the state. The Wilmington District has had a lot of experience in coastal restoration. Our oldest project which has been very successful is the Morehead Army Reserve Center, now 12 years old. It’s considered a successful site, as well as Island 13 and Festival Park. The Wilmington District has been fortunate to receive national recognition on all of these sites.”

What motivates Wilson is a simple love of biology and unlocking of various doors that only Mother Nature could open. He’s passionate about his work, and he feels that teamwork motivates others to do excellent work.

“I love what I do. When we’re building these habitats that are functioning it’s a great legacy to be able to leave behind, a place that you can go to. We’re building them from ground up. It’s interesting taking what used to be barren piles of sand and turning them into what are now thriving primary nursery areas. I think we’re making a real contribution to the local environment and to science because pilot projects like Wanchese Harbor are good examples for others to observe.”

Cape May Plant Materials Center Celebrates 40 Years of Conservation Success for New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic Region

Doug Zehner, Acting State Conservationist, New Jersey September 2005 - “The Cape May Plant Materials Center has been instrumental in helping protect our coastal resources, saving lives and property for the past 40 years,” Doug Zehner, Acting New Jersey State Conservationist for USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said Thursday. Zehner told about 90 guests who were invited to the Center to celebrate its forty years of service to the region, “The 88th Congress authorized our agency to establish the Cape May Plant Materials Center after a Nor’easter, known as the ‘Storm of 1962,’ caused severe damage from Long Island to the Carolina coast. The Center’s mission was to develop plant products and technology to enhance shoreline stabilization in coastal areas vulnerable to damage from hurricanes and tropical storms.”

Bob Escheman, Plant Materials DirectorBob Escheman, National Program Leader for the NRCS Plant Materials Program, explained that the Cape May Plant Materials Center (PMC) is one of twenty-six plant materials centers operated by NRCS throughout the country to develop plant solutions for natural resource conservation issues. “The Cape May PMC has been a leader in the development of conservation plants for both coastal and upland ecosystems providing habitat for wildlife and people,” he said. The Cape May facility provides conservation services for East coast which includes significant portions North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

PMC Staff Honored at 40th Anniversary CelebrationFrom left to right: Bob Escheman, NRCS Plant Materials Director, Jennifer Sneed, representing Senator Frank Lautenberg, Chris Miller, Plant Materials Specialist, Barbara Douglas, Biological Science Aid, Betty Marshall, Biological Science Aid, Bill Skaradek, Plant Materials Manager, Noel Murray, Biological Technician and Carl Granieri, representing Congressman Frank LoBiondo (right), participated in the 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Cape May Plant Materials Center. Not in photo: James Futrell, Farm Foreman.

Former PMC employees joined the celebration.
Don Hamer John Dickerson and Dave Lorenz with Noel Murray
Don Hamer gives his attention to tour guide. John Dickerson and Dave Lorenz visit with PMC technician Noel Murray.

Last Update March 22, 2013