The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ State Forest Nursery will hit a milestone today as it plants its 150-millionth seedling. Nursery manager, Roger Jacob, says the seedlings have been planted across the state. He says most of them go to private individuals for private cost-share programs, reforestation projects, and they send seedlings to parks and wildlife areas, and for D.O.T. roadside projects.
The nursery began sending out seedlings in the 1930’s as part of Iowa State University, it was transferred to the Iowa Conservation Commission in 1942. Jacob says 150-million seedlings is quite a lot for a state like Iowa.
Jacob says it’s three to three-and-a-half million a year, and it’s not the biggest nursery in the midwest, as Minnesota sends out 10 million seedlings a year, but he says Minnesota has more forests than Iowa, which has much more agriculture. Sales of the seedlings have dropped from five-and-a-half million to one-and-a-half million in the last five years. Jacob says agriculture has played a part in that decline.
Jacob says most of it has to do with high grain prices and people are not participating in cost-share programs to plant trees as they can make more money planting crops. Jacob says conifers were once the most favorite seedling, but now hardwoods are in the most demand, with the black walnut the top seller. He says the production of the seedlings hasn’t changed very much through the years.
Jacob says it’s still a lot of work done by hand as all the plants are grown from seed and graded and sorted by hand. A ceremonial 150-millionth seedling will be planted Saturday by Gene Hertel, who was the first trained nursery manager and later the state forester. There will be an open house at the nursery from 10 A.M. until two P.M.