Is this fer real?
These guys claim to get sixty years of growth in twelve. If this is true,
I'm gonna get me a bur oak from them toot suite.
Tree nursery gets to the root of the problem
Don't want to wait 80 years for a mature oak? A Canadian entrepreneur is
using a new technology to accelerate the growth of trees without chemical or
genetic tinkering, LEONARD ZEHR reports
By LEONARD ZEHR
UPDATED AT 3:56 PM EDT
Thursday, Oct 14, 2004
Adam Koziol wants to paper Canada with trees as fast as he can.
"There's a massive shortage of trees because of urban sprawl," he says. "And
they just don't grow fast enough."
So the advertising executive went out on a limb last year and set up
EarthGen International Ltd. of Mississauga, licensing technology developed
by a U.S. nursery that can accelerate the growth of trees, without chemical
or genetic tinkering.
The "root production method," or RPM, was developed 17 years ago by Forrest
Keeling Nursery of Elsberry, Mo.
It involves a multistep program of air-pruning, planting, transplanting and
other husbandry techniques to develop a more dense and fibrous system of
feeder roots that accelerate the take-up of oxygen, water and nutrients into
"The more feeder roots, the stronger and faster a tree grows," Mr. Koziol
And he has a budding forest to prove it. Sugar maples, red oaks, river
birches, red sunsets, bur oaks and swamp white oaks, to name a few, reaching
heights of five-to-six feet after their first 210-day growing season, abound
at EarthGen's farm and greenhouse operation in the Niagara region.
Conventional, bare-root trees usually manage only about a foot's worth of
growth in the first year after seeds germinate. So if you want a mature oak
tree for your backyard and don't want to wait 60 to 80 years, "our RPM trees
can do it in 12-to-15 years," Mr. Koziol promises. Now he and 10 sales
agents have begun knocking on doors at garden centres, forest products
companies and all three levels of government, hoping to sell 20,000 of the
company's first crop of 100,000 RPM trees this fall at prices of $28-to-$30
"Skepticism is the No. 1 obstacle we've come up against in marketing," he
says. "I've got a thick skin but convincing people there are no chemical
tricks is a tough sell."
Another hurdle EarthGen has come up against is that garden centres aren't
eager to stock up on trees before the winter because their selling season is
in the spring. But when RPM trees are planted in the fall, the roots spread
and keep growing as long as the ground is warm.
"The trees we don't sell this year will be worth a lot more in the spring
because they'll be a lot bigger," says Joelle Mulski, a partner and
vice-president, who with her husband Mr. Koziol still runs their advertising
business Adlin Group Inc.
Mr. Koziol was bitten by the tree bug at a resort in the Cayman Islands
several years ago. "I was sitting by the pool and a buyer for the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers began telling me about a nursery that grows trees five
times faster than normal," he recalls.
EarthGen's three partners, including vice-president David Ashworth, have
injected about $1-million into the business and their five-year plan is to
generate $20-million in revenue from the sale of 600,000 trees in 2008.
EarthGen's exclusive Canadian licence is one of three sold by the Missouri
nursery. The others are in California and northern Florida, says Forrest
Keeling president Hugh Steavenson, who is looking for two or three more
licensees "now that the system has been achieving predicable and consistent
results for the past five years."
He says his nursery encountered plenty of skeptics more than a decade ago,
until conservation agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tested his
claims about RPM trees. "Our real breakthrough came in 1993 and 1995 when
the Missouri and Mississippi rivers flooded and conservation agencies came
to us for help in reclaiming thousand of acres of dead growth."
The Missouri Department of Conservation now contends that it has obtained
better than 95-per-cent survival with RPM plantings along the Mississippi
River, compared with less than 10 per cent with bare-root seedlings.
This year, Forrest Keeling plans to grow one million RPM trees in 200
varieties, including two dozen varieties of slow-growing oaks. That's up
from 400,000 trees two years ago.
"We're getting three- and four-year-old oaks with as many acorns as a
25-year-old tree," Mr. Steavenson says, stressing that acorns support the
diets of deer, waterfowl and other wildlife.
Carla Grant, executive director of the Ontario Forestry Association, which
represents private forest owners in the province, says she was "blown away"
when she toured EarthGen's farm in Niagara. "I think this would be fantastic
if it could be used more broadly . . . in urban tree planting and
While EarthGen suggests forest products companies could harvest RPM trees in
half the time they do now, Ms. Grant figures the economics of large-scale
plantings still has to be tested.
"Seedlings can cost $2 each but the land requires a sizable investment in
time and money year after year . . . to remove weeds, mow and apply
pesticides," she says.
"RPM trees, on the other hand, have a higher up-front cost but a lot of the
normal tending can be eliminated because these trees are already above the
competition of native grasses and the leaves are already in the sun."