28 Tree Planters’ Notes
RNGR: A National Resource for Reforestation,
Restoration, and Nursery Professionals
Diane L. Haase, Jeremiah R. Pinto, R. Kasten Dumroese, George Hernandez, Bob Karrfalt, and Ron Overton
Members of the National RNGR Team (see table 1 for titles and locations)
The Forest Service developed the national Reforestation,
Nurseries, and Genetics Resources (RNGR) program to pro-
vide expert support to State, industrial, and private forest and
conservation nurseries throughout the country. The RNGR
program includes technical assistance to nurseries, research
projects (to address seedling and eld issues), and Internet
sites. RNGR personnel publish periodicals, handbooks, and
scientic articles and host annual nursery conferences and
workshops. The National Seed Laboratory (NSL) and a Tribal
Nursery Emphasis are also integral components of RNGR’s
The RNGR Program
The success of reforestation and restoration projects can
greatly hinge on the use of high-quality and appropriate
plant materials produced in nurseries. When implemented
successfully, these projects contribute to air and water quality,
wildlife habitat, biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability,
timber production, healthy forests, and reduced soil erosion.
Collectively, about 1,200 nurseries nationwide currently
satisfy the need for plant materials used in restoration,
reforestation, and conservation efforts. Although demand for
commercial timber species declined during the past decade,
demand for other native plant species, each having its own
cultural and site requirements, has risen dramatically. Con-
sequently, requests for information about how to propagate,
store, ship, and plant specic native plant species have grown
faster than the information is being developed. In addition,
information associated with the use of native plants to address
climate change, invasive species, and ecosystem services
is lacking. Concurrently, relevant expertise and research
resources within Federal and State agencies, universities,
and other organizations have declined to levels outpaced
by the need. To address this disparate trend in native plant
knowledge and to continue supporting information needs for
conventional forest species, a small team of specialists within
the USDA Forest Service provides regional and national
coordination of technical assistance to nursery, reforestation,
restoration, and seed professionals.
The Forest Service is responsible for assisting States with pro-
ducing, distributing, and planting seedlings on private land.
In 2001, the agency created the RNGR Program. A national
group of technical specialists located across the country is
referred to as the “RiNGeR Team” (table 1). The RNGR Team
assists Federal, State, territorial, tribal, and private nurseries
by providing technical assistance aimed toward production of
adequate supplies of reasonably priced, high-quality, geneti-
cally well-adapted seedlings for reforestation, conservation,
and restoration. The team provides technical expertise on
cost-effective propagation and planting methods that improve
seedling survival and growth. The Forest Service NSL is also
a key component of the RNGR Program, particularly with
emerging needs for germplasm conservation. Geographically
dispersed RNGR Team members are attuned to regional
needs, but act nationally to bring signicantly more expertise
to solve localized problems through information sharing.
Table 1. The national RNGR Team and its affiliates.
R. Kasten Dumroese Research Plant Physiologist and Editor, Native Plants Journal Moscow, ID
Diane L. Haase Western Nursery Specialist and Editor, Tree Planters’ Notes Portland, OR
George Hernandez Southern Nursery Specialist Atlanta, GA
Robert Karrfalt National Seed Laboratory Director Dry Branch, GA
Ronald Overton Northeastern Nursery Specialist West Lafayette, IN
Jeremiah R. Pinto Tribal Nursery Coordinator and Research Plant Physiologist Moscow, ID
Matt Howell Information Technology Manager Athens, GA
Tom Landis Nursery Specialist Emeritus and Editor, Forest Nursery Notes Medford, OR
Volume 54, No. 1 (2011) 29
The RNGR Program has several components, including
Technical Assistance, a Research Program, a Tribal Nursery
Emphasis, the NSL, and Collaborative Agreements and
Cooperative Efforts. Each component is described below.
The team provides expert support to forest and conservation
nurseries throughout the country. This support entails advising
nursery managers and other plant professionals on a variety
of issues and opportunities pertaining to seedling production,
native plant restoration, and forest regeneration. The team
assists nurseries with problem solving and provides guidance
in developing strategies to address seedling quality issues.
Through reports, publications, presentations, conferences,
workshops, and onsite visits, RNGR personnel provide key
information to aid in the understanding and implementation
of effective technology for bareroot and container nursery
Periodicals—Members of the RNGR Team are directly
responsible for producing the Native Plants Journal, Tree
Planters’ Notes, and Forest Nursery Notes. Each of these
publications delivers information and research results to the
worldwide nursery, restoration, and reforestation communi-
ties. These periodicals feature easy-to-understand, hands-on
information that can be readily applied in the eld.
USDA Agriculture Handbooks—These publications sum-
marize current knowledge on specic subjects, providing a
source of information and reference for eld professionals.
The Container Tree Nursery Manual (seven volumes) (Landis
and others 1989-2010, gure 1) is the standard for the industry
and is the most downloaded publication from the RNGR
Internet site (see next section). The nal volume, Seedling
Processing, Storage, and Outplanting, was published in 2010
(Landis and others 2010). Other handbooks published by
RNGR are The Woody Plant Seed Manual (Bonner and Karr-
falt 2008) and the two-volume Nursery Manual for Native
Plants: A Guide for Tribal Nurseries (Dumroese and others
2009c). Two additional handbooks being written are the
Tropical Nursery Manual and the Hardwood Nursery Manual.
Full citations for recent RNGR publications are listed at the
end of this article.
Internet Sites—The RNGR site (http://rngr.net) has the
largest online collection of articles on producing native plants
for reforestation, conservation, or restoration (approximately
7,000 articles and growing). All articles are searchable and
are free to download. The publication database includes all
issues of Forest Nursery Notes (1993–present), Tree Planters’
Notes (1950–present), and the National Nursery Proceedings
(1949–present) and many other articles. The RNGR site is
used extensively by nursery and regeneration professionals
around the world. During the past 2 years, the site had
100,782 visits and 92,251 content downloads by visitors
from 199 countries––averaging one visit and one download
every 10 to 12 minutes. In addition, the RNGR site contains a
national nursery and seed directory, a calendar of events, a list
of relevant links, and information about the RNGR Program
and personnel (gure 2). RNGR personnel also created the
Native Plants Network site (http://www.nativeplantnetwork.
org). This one-of-a-kind searchable database contains ap-
proximately 3,000 propagation protocols for native plants.
New protocols can be added by anyone willing to upload and
share his or her techniques.
Conferences—RNGR assists with organization and manage-
ment of the western, southern, and northeastern regional nurs-
ery conferences and the annual Intertribal Nursery Council
meeting. These events provide the venue for sharing technical
information, networking, and discussing emerging issues that
Figure 1. The Container Tree Nursery Manual (seven volumes) serves as the
industry standard for production of container seedlings for reforestation and
30 Tree Planters’ Notes
confront nursery managers. Papers presented at these confer-
ences are published by RNGR in the annual National Nursery
Proceedings (available at the RNGR Web site).
Training—RNGR has organized or conducted training in
tropical nursery management, seed collection, seed con-
ditioning, native plant propagation, tree planting, longleaf
ecosystem restoration, and hardwood nursery management
(gure 3). In addition, RNGR Team members regularly give
presentations at various forestry and conservation events.
The RNGR Team facilitates, coordinates, and conducts
administrative studies and research projects among a variety
of partners within government agencies, universities, and
nongovernmental organizations. This work assesses and
responds to specic nursery and eld questions and problems,
and the results are shared with managers through technol-
ogy transfer presentations and publications and with peer
scientists through refereed science articles (gure 4). Recent
and current studies include developing protocols for assessing
hardwood seedling quality and cold hardiness in the Central,
Eastern, and Southern United States (Apostol and others
2007, 2009; Haase 2008; Islam and others 2008b; Jacobs and
others 2008); examining acorn viability (Goodman and others
2005); identifying stock types and site preparation methods
for restoration of native hardwoods in Hawaii (Dumroese
and others 2009b, 2011); using fall fertilization to improve
seedling growth and reduce nutrient leaching in nurseries
in the Midwest (Islam and others 2008a, 2009); developing
subirrigation methods for container seedlings to reduce
water use and potential pollution nationwide (Dumroese and
others 2006, 2007, 2011; Pinto and others 2008; Davis and
others 2008); enhancing techniques for growing longleaf pine
seedlings in the Southern United States (Dumroese and others
2005, 2009a; Barnett and Dumroese 2006; Jackson and others
2010); investigating the use of biochar as a media substrate in
containers; and tracking isotope signatures and their relation-
ship to seedling physiology during production.
Tribal Nursery Emphasis
American Indian tribes are working hard to preserve their
traditional ecological knowledge and to develop and enhance
production of native plants for spiritual, medicinal, cultural,
land restoration, reforestation, and educational uses. Since
2001, the RNGR Team has emphasized outreach to tribes
to foster long-term collaborations focusing on native plants,
nurseries, and educational activities. In 2003, a Tribal Nursery
Needs Assessment (Luna and others 2003) was published; it
was the rst survey of American Indian native plant needs and
the rst national directory of tribal nurseries.
The RNGR Tribal Nursery Emphasis currently has three
components: (1) ongoing technical assistance to tribes about
collection, propagation, and deployment of native plants;
(2) organization of the Intertribal Nursery Council, an annual
forum for tribal members to gather and discuss important
topics relevant to native plants (gure 5); and (3) production
of a comprehensive guide detailing nursery development and
Figure 2. The popular RNGR Web site has more than 7,000 downloadable
articles and a national nursery directory, calendar of events, description of the
RNGR program, and other resources.
Figure 3. Members of the RNGR Team regularly organize or participate in
conferences and workshops to provide technical support to nurseries.
Volume 54, No. 1 (2011) 31
native plant propagation as it relates to tribes. The guide,
Nursery Manual for Native Plants: A Guide for Tribal
Nurseries, Volume 1, Nursery Management (Dumroese and
others 2009c, gure 6), includes information on nursery
start-up, development and management, growing plants, and
problem solving. Volume 2, Plant Propagation Protocols, is
in preparation and contains nearly 300 protocols of plants
identied in the Tribal Nursery Needs Assessment.
Figure 4. Research projects are designed to solve problems, answer questions,
and generate new technical information for field and nursery personnel to apply.
On left: research focuses on a variety of species, such as blue spruce, big sage,
and longleaf pine. On right: various measurements are conducted to evaluate
plant quality in response to treatments. This study examined the effects of
different irrigation and fertilization levels on photosynthesis.
Figure 5. The Intertribal Nursery Council meets annually to promote networking among tribal members and to discuss technology and programs for plant production.
32 Tree Planters’ Notes
To date, the program has assisted nearly 80 tribes across
the United States and Canada and has worked one on one
with more than 500 professionals within those tribes. This
assistance has included conducting various nursery training
workshops, organizing information-sharing meetings, and
technical assistance. In addition, RNGR helped construct a
Cultural Plant Propagation Center, a greenhouse that was
developed in partnership with the Moencopi School near Tuba
City, AZ, to enhance conservation education, promote restora-
tion, and provide opportunities for Hopi and Navajo elders to
interact with children and share traditional ecological knowl-
edge. The Tribal Nursery Emphasis program will continue
to foster technology transfer through the annual Intertribal
Nursery Council meeting, identify funding opportunities and
seek innovative partnerships to enable tribes to develop their
own nurseries, provide organizational structure and expertise
for Forest Service support of tribal nursery and ecosystem
efforts, and continue to build and maintain collaborative and
trusting government-to-government relationships.
National Seed Laboratory
Sufcient quantities of seeds are needed to restore and sustain
native plant communities that are increasingly affected
by invasive species, pest infestations, wildre, overuse by
humans, inherent biology, and climate change. Supplying
these seeds is complex as each species has its own unique
seed production and germination protocols. As well, it has
become increasingly evident that successful seed production
and storage is important for preserving the genetic integrity
of endangered species and other plants being lost in large
numbers in the wild. The National Seed Laboratory (NSL)
serves as the primary national strategic resource for forest
ecosystem seed science and technology; it directly addresses
the complex challenges associated with the use of seed for
conservation and restoration. Located in Macon, GA, the NSL
originated in the 1950s to support southern pine restoration
work but has undergone several evolutions since then, thereby
diversifying its purpose. The latest change occurred in 2005,
when the Chief of the Forest Service expanded the NSL’s
mission to include all native plants, with an emphasis on gene
conservation through long-term seed storage.
The NSL is diverse in its seed service offerings. It develops
protocols for seed cleaning, germination, and storage of a
variety of native forest plant seeds, ranging from commercial
timber species to herbaceous understory plants. It provides
onsite seed storage for many conservation species and in
security backup vaults maintained in Fort Collins, CO. The
NSL provides training materials, workshops, and customized
individual training programs to U.S. and international seed
workers. It also collaborates with research and production
facilities worldwide and participates in several national and
international conferences every year. NSL staff members
are authors and co-editors of The Woody Plant Seed Manual
(Bonner and Karrfalt 2008, gure 7).
The NSL performs seed tests for private industry, State
governments, and Federal agencies. Results are used in forest
and conservation nurseries to make efcient use of seeds, to
evaluate seed quality in processing plants, and as the basis for
seed price determination. The NSL is the only U.S. facility
accredited by the International Seed Testing Association
(ISTA) to test forest seeds.
Figure 6. The first volume of the Nursery Manual for Native Plants: A Guide
for Tribal Nurseries focuses on nursery management and covers all aspects of
managing a native plant nursery, from initial planning through crop production
to establishing trials and improving nursery productivity into the future.
Volume 54, No. 1 (2011) 33
Figure 7. The Woody Plant Seed Manual includes seven chapters on general
principles such as seed biology, harvesting, storage, testing, and nursery
practices and detailed information on 236 genera of native and introduced
Collaborative Agreements and Cooperative
To leverage scarce resources, RNGR partners with universi-
ties, Federal agencies, and State agencies to provide training,
technical assistance, and research to nursery and reforestation
programs. In addition, RNGR works with International
Forestry, the Institute for Pacic Island Forestry, and the Inter-
national Institute for Tropical Forestry to provide assistance
to programs in the Caribbean and Pacic. RNGR collaborates
with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the U.S.
Agency for International Development, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations to provide nursery and reforestation assistance
internationally (e.g., RNGR provided FAS with a nursery
manual and training tools for use in Afghanistan). RNGR
has collaborated to translate (and print) the Container Tree
Nursery Manual into Spanish and Chinese languages.
Clearly, the national RNGR Program provides signicant
support to forest and conservation nurseries nationally and
internationally and is continually striving to meet the growing
needs of these nurseries as well. To learn more about RNGR,
its programs, its members or afliates, or to request assis-
tance, please visit the RNGR Web site (http://rngr.net).
Apostol, K.G.; Jacobs D.F.; Wilson, B.C.; Salifu, K.F.; Dumroese,
R.K. 2007. Growth, gas exchange, and root respiration in
northern red oak (Quercus rubra) seedlings exposed to low root
temperatures. Forest Ecology and Management. 253: 89–96.
Apostol, K.G.; Jacobs D.F.; Salifu, K.F.; Dumroese, R.K. 2009.
Root desiccation and drought stress responses of bareroot
Quercus rubra seedlings treated with a hydrophilic polymer root
dip. Plant and Soil. 315: 229–240.
Barnett, J.P.; Dumroese, R.K. 2006. Separating live from dead
longleaf pine seeds: good and bad news. In: Connor, K., ed.
Proceedings of the 13th Biennial Southern Silvicultural Research
Conference. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest
Service, Southern Research Station. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-
Bonner, F.T.; Karrfalt, R.P., eds. 2008. The Woody Plant Seed
Manual. Agric. Handbook No. 727. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1,223 p.
Davis, A.S.; Jacobs, D.F., Overton, R.P.; Dumroese, R.K. 2008.
Inﬂuence of irrigation method and container type on growth of
Quercus rubra seedlings and media electrical conductivity. Native
Plants Journal. 9: 4–13.
Dumroese, R.K.; Parkhurst, J.; Barnett, J.P. 2005. Controlled
release fertilizer improves quality of container longleaf pine
seedlings. In: Dumroese, R.K.; Riley, L.E.; Landis, T.D., technical
coordinators. National proceedings, forest and conservation
nursery associations—2004. Proceedings RMRS-P-35. Fort
Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky
Mountain Research Station. 3–8.
Dumroese, R.K.; Pinto, J.R.; Jacobs, D.F.; Davis, A.S.; Horiuchi,
B. 2006. Subirrigation reduces water use, nitrogen loss, and moss
growth in a container nursery. Native Plants Journal. 7: 253–261.
Dumroese, R.K.; Jacobs, D.F.; Davis, A.S.; Pinto, J.R.; Landis, T.D.
2007. An introduction to subirrigation in forest and conservation
nurseries and some preliminary results of demonstrations. In: Riley,
L.E.; Dumroese, R.K.; Landis, T.D., technical coordinators. National
proceedings, forest and conservation nursery associations––2006.
Proceedings RMRS-P-50. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
34 Tree Planters’ Notes
Dumroese, R.K.; Barnett, J.P.; Jackson, D.P.; Hainds, M.J.
2009a. 2008 interim guidelines for growing longleaf pine seedlings
in container nurseries. In: Riley, L.E.; Dumroese, R.K., technical
coordinators. National proceedings, forest and conservation
nursery associations—2008. Proceedings RMRS-P-58, Fort
Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky
Mountain Research Station. 101–107.
Dumroese, R.K.; Jacobs, D.F.; Davis, A.S. 2009b. Inoculating
Acacia koa with Bradyrhizobium and applying fertilizer in the
nursery: effects on nodule formation and seedling growth.
HortScience. 44: 443–446.
Dumroese, R.K.; Luna, T.; Landis, T.D., editors. 2009. Nursery
manual for native plants: A guide for tribal nurseries––Volume 1:
Nursery management. Agriculture Handbook 730. Washington,
DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 302 p.
Dumroese, R.K.; Davis, A.S.; Jacobs, D.F. 2011. Nursery response
of Acacia koa seedlings to container size, irrigation method, and
fertilization rate. Journal of Plant Nutrition 34(6): in press.
Goodman, R.C.; Jacobs, D.F.; Karrfalt, R.P. 2005. Evaluating
desiccation sensitivity of Quercus rubra acorns using X-ray image
analysis. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 35: 2823–2831.
Haase, D.L. 2008. Understanding forest seedling quality: measure-
ments and interpretation. Tree Planters’ Notes. 52(2): 24–30.
Islam, M.A.; Apostol, K.G.; Jacobs, D.F.; Dumroese, R.K. 2008a.
Effects of fall fertilization on morphology and cold hardiness of
red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) seedlings. In: Dumroese, R.K.;
Riley, L.E., technical coordinators. National proceedings, forest
and conservation nursery associations—2007. Proceedings
RMRS-P-57. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 72–78.
Islam, M.A.; Jacobs, D.F.; Apostol, K.G.; Dumroese, R.K. 2008b.
Transient physiological responses of planting Douglas-ﬁr seedlings
with frozen or thawed root plugs under cool-moist and warm-dry
conditions. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 38: 1517–1525.
Islam, M.A.; Apostol, K.G.; Jacobs, D.F.; Dumroese, R.K. 2009.
Fall fertilization of Pinus resinosa seedlings: nutrient uptake, cold
hardiness, and morphological development. Annals of Forest
Science. 66(2009): 704. 9 p.
Jackson, D.P.; Dumroese, R.K.; Barnett, J.P.; Patterson, W.B.
2010. Effects of liquid fertilizer application on the morphological
and outplanting success of container longleaf pine. In: Stanturf,
J.A., editor. Proceedings of the 14th Biennial Southern Silvicultural
Research Conference. e-Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-GTR-121. Asheville,
NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern
Research Station. 229–234.
Jacobs, D.F.; Davis, A.S.; Wilson, B.; Dumroese, R.K.; Goodman,
R.C.; Salifu, K.F. 2008. Short-day treatment alters Douglas-ﬁr
seedling dehardening and transplant root proliferation at varying
rhizosphere temperatures. Canadian Journal of Forest Research.
Landis, T.D.; Dumroese, R.K.; Haase, D.L. 2010. The Container
Tree Nursery Manual: Volume 7, Seedling processing, storage,
and outplanting. Agric. Handbook No. 674. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 199 p.
Luna, T.; Landis, T.D.; Pinto, J., compilers. 2003. Intertribal Nursery
Council: Tribal Nursery Needs Assessment. Asheville, NC: Southern
Research Station and State and Private Forestry: Reforestation,
Nurseries, and Genetics Resources. 85 p.
Pinto, J.R.; Chandler, R.A.; Dumroese, R.K. 2008. Growth,
nitrogen use efﬁciency, and leachate comparison of subirrigated
and overhead irrigated pale purple coneﬂower seedlings.
Hortscience. 43(3): 897–901.