Thursday, June 30, 2022

Professor aims to revive state tree

February 21, 2001
Associate Professor Deb McCullough is one of the MSU professors working with the Department of Natural Resources to stop the decline of white pine trees in the Midwest. —

A joint program between MSU professors and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources could lead to the resurgence of the state tree - the white pine.

Deb McCullough, an associate professor of forest entomology, has been collaborating with the DNR on several projects designed to minimize deforestation of the white pine.

“For a number of reasons the white pine has had a lot of trouble regenerating,” McCullough said. “But in the last five years or so, all across the lake states, people who manage forests have gotten very interested in the white pine.”

Two major areas of concern for researchers include the white pine weevil, a small forest beetle that disfigures trees by eating away at the top; and white pine blister rust, an exotic tree disease which can wipe out an entire stand of trees.

“For many years the DNR and national forest services thought that white pines couldn’t make it anymore due to these pests and diseases,” McCullough said. “However, in Wisconsin the Menominee Indians didn’t buy into the idea of not having white pines.”

Through collaboration with the Menominee tribe, researchers from across the country learned about their natural methods of managing white pine stands, she said.

Don Hennig, a DNR specialist in planting and maintaining trees for more than 30 years, said he has toured the Menominee Forests and learned about their managing practices.

“They have a very impressive forestry program over there,” Hennig said. “They have somewhere around 100,000 acres on their reservation.”

The Menominees are constantly working with universities and researchers to share their knowledge of white pine regeneration, Hennig said.

“They have been doing this for hundreds of years and are very good at it,” he said.

Hennig has worked with McCullough on several occasions planting and studying stands of white pines.

“We have established a white pine initiative that involves MSU and the DNR,” McCullough said. “It is a long-term project involving planting demo plots and looking at all the ways of regenerating white pines.”

The project includes planting the trees without much spacing between them or mixing the trees in with oak trees for extra shade. The shade is a good way to ward off pests, but too much shade will stunt the tree’s growth, she said.

Researchers have also pinpointed which locations will be affected by diseases, effectively telling foresters where and where not to plant.

“We need to thank the Menominees for not only doing this, but for showing us that it could be done,” McCullough said. “It is my hope that we can show people that these trees can survive with insects and diseases and that there are good economic and environmental ways to manage white pines.”

Donald Dickmann, professor of forestry, said he has been working with McCullough for more than three years on this project.

“With her background in entomology and my background in tree physiology

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