Development of improved white oak builds on existing white oak genetics research and supports the White Oak Initiative by setting up a program designed to answer a wide variety of white oak genetic variation questions associated with traits that have economic and ecological value. The improvement program will also provide a sustainable supply of high quality white oak genetic material via acorns and seedlings. Knowledge gained and material available from the improvement program will increase our ability to conserve and restore white oaks to achieve a variety of ecological, conservation and economic goals at regional and national levels. To achieve these goals, white oak acorns will be collected from throughout its geographic range, the acorns will be grown in a nursery and outplanted into provenance/progeny tests to evaluate local adaptation, genetic diversity patterns, superiority in a variety of traits, and expression of specific DNA sequences. Additionally, scion material will be collected from some of the parent trees whose acorns were collected and this material will be used to create grafted seed orchards. The seed orchards will provide acorns of improved white oak and they can be used to breed specifically for insect and disease resistance, for traits that will support ecological success in the forest and for traits that will provide increased economic value of wood products.

Goals of the project:

  1. provide a sustainable supply of high quality white oak seedlings which will improve our ability to conserve and restore white oaks to achieve a variety of ecological, conservation and economic goals at regional and national levels
  2.  Provide white oak genetic resources to academic and industrial research and development efforts
  3.  Collect and archive white oak genetic material from throughout its range
  4.  Establish a breeding program to meet current and future demands for white oak seedlings for reforestation

As part of the white oak genetics project, we will be creating a network of partners, stakeholders and ongoing white oak research programs to advise and support the project in collaboration with the Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits and the White oak Initiative.

range map

The white oak genetics plan includes the following steps that will take place over the next several years: 
TreeSnap Brochure

Step 1: Collect white oak acorns from across the geographic range where the species naturally occurs (green area on the map) using partner and stakeholder networks including citizen scientists, non-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies. Collectors use TreeSnap to document the parent trees acorns were collected from. ​

Step 2: Plant the white oak acorns in the Kentucky Division of Forestry's Morgan County Nursery and grow them for one year

Step 3: Plant the white oak seedlings in genetic tests established in different parts of white oak's geographic range to evaluate which parents produce high quality seedlings, and which sources of white oak are best adapted to different areas

Step 4: Create several seed orchards using material from the best parents as determined from the genetic tests to provide a sustainable supply of acorns that will produce high quality seedlings. The seed orchards can also be used to breed for specific traits such as disease or insect resistance, or for other traits that will support ecological success in the forest and increased economic value for wood products.