The Crossett Experimental Forest's contributions to southern pine improvement programs
Long renowned for its contributions to silvicultural practices in naturally regenerated loblolly (Pinus taeda) and shortleaf (Pinus echinata) pine, the Crossett Experimental Forest (CEF) has also played an important, if much less well known, role in southern pine tree improvement. A decades-long program centered at Crossett started in 1951. Roland E. Schoenike was hired in 1952 to run the CEF’s tree improvement program, then largely “exploratory” in nature. A combined soils and genetics laboratory was constructed on the CEF in 1954, and following Schoenike’s departure in 1956, plant geneticist Hoy C. Grigsby was hired from the Mississippi Forestry Commission as the scientist in charge of the program. In the late 1960s, Grigsby installed part of a full- and half-sibling plus tree loblolly pine progeny test on the CEF compared to “woods-run” materials collected from the experimental forest. However, Grigsby would not see this study to completion; after the CEF was shut in 1974 he was transferred to Pineville, Louisiana. Although long closed, portions of the CEF program still offer current and future research opportunities. For example, some plus tree progeny tests remain, and at 46-49 years post-establishment, these tests have unique opportunities to reevaluate growth, bole quality, and other performance measures for known families, as well as the promise of new studies related to genetics, tree defense strategies, carbon allocation, and bole/crown dynamics.