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Eastern Red Cedar, making it a friend instead of foe

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana L.) has a love/hate relationship with most land owners and managers in the Great Plains region.  It’s success as an evergreen component in windbreaks is unprecedented due to its ability to grow in low water environments and across a wide range of soil textures and pH conditions.  Eastern red cedar (ERC) provides valuable food, shelter and nesting habitat to numerous wildlife species including songbirds like the cedar waxwing and the popular game bird, the ring-neck pheasant, in addition to providing cover for small and large mammals.  The windbreaks that ERC form reduces wind erosion on crop fields, protect livestock and farmsteads against the relentless wind common to the Great Plains, and prevent roadways from becoming unpassable due to drifting snow.  For all these positive attributes, ERC does have a significant downside, namely how easily it spreads from seed.  The invasion of ERC into rangeland is often so severe that ecological and economic thresholds are crossed, in fact from the period of 1965 to 2005, the volume of ERC in the US has increased approximately 23,000%.

Fence within a fence providing effective deer exclusion
Labor and cost efficient concentric solar powered electric fences are proving effective deer exclusion for the ERC study at the KSPMC.

The silver lining to this scenario is ERC is a dioecious species, which means it has distinct male and female plants.  Using tightly controlled propagation techniques, cuttings are taken from male ERC specimens and adventitious rooting is initiated in a greenhouse setting.  These rooted cuttings are used in conservation plantings without fear of introducing another seed source for your next ecological nightmare.  The Manhattan, Kansas Plant Materials Center (KSPMC) is working with the Kansas State Forest Service (KSFS) to evaluate and optimize this alternative method of ERC seedling production.  To date, the KSFS has studied the effects of plant growth regulators to improve rooting success by varying the concentrations and combinations of the plant growth regulators.  The KSPMC is comparing establishment success of the male cuttings to standard nursery stock and tracking the ability of the rooted cuttings to overcome plagiotropism (lateral growth inherited from the parent plant cutting).  The survival rate is similar for the rooted cuttings compared to the standard nursery stock seedlings.

As a side note to this promising study, the KSPMC is well pleased with the success of the solar powered electric fence deer deterrent system to protect the ERC planting.  Previous woody plant studies at the KSPMC were often impacted by deer rubs and browsing of young trees and shrubs, which severely damages the plantings or in some cases, destroys them.  This ERC study is enclosed inside of a two-wire electric fence with a separate single strand of high visibility electric tape about three feet inside of the main fence.  The fence within a fence arrangement fools the depth perception of deer and they perceive the fence is too tall to jump over.  This fencing strategy is often used for whitetail deer herds to prevent them from over browsing food plot plantings until the plants are large enough to withstand browsing.  As of this date, no deer damage has been observed in the study.

For more information contact the Manhattan Plant Materials Center.         

For more information on eastern red cedar refer to the plant guide at:

3 rows of ERC seedlings produced from male cuttings.
Successful seedlings propagated from male cuttings thriving one year after planting at the KSPMC.