Rhododendron Research Foundation
August E. Kehr and Alfred S. Martin, for the Trustees
The Research 100 project which was completed in 1974 through nearly optimum participation by members of the Society, indicated many important trends. The responding members definitely indicated that they would like to see more direct efforts by the Society in solving a variety of problems encountered by growers in all sections of the country. Prior to this time, strong feelings had been evidenced in National Board meetings that research was an area too long neglected as a goal for the Society. Discussions at Board meetings during 1974 and 1975 led to the adoption of a proposal by the Research Committee to fund a limited number of projects with monies developed by the Seed Exchange. It was also decided that it would be advantageous to set up a Research Foundation which could collect and administer funds to continue research projects for the benefit of the Society's members. This idea was announced to the membership at the 1975 annual meeting and enthusiastically received.
The president was empowered by the Board to appoint Trustees of the Foundation and to have drawn a completed Trust document. Largely through the efforts of Judson Brooks, the Trust Agreement was finalized and approved both by legal counsel and the Trustees of the Foundation early last Spring. The president outlined the main provisions of the Trust Agreement and gave a short description of the objectives and methods of operation to the annual meeting in Philadelphia on May 22 this year. Following this, Judson Brooks made an initial plea for funds from the membership present at the annual banquet which resulted in cash donations and pledges, most of which have now been received, netting over $8,000 toward the initial goal of a $ 100,000 Endowment Fund for the new Foundation.
The income from the funds of the Foundation are to be used "for promoting and financing research projects relating to the introduction, production, cultivation, maintenance, improvement, propagation, protection and dissemination of azaleas and rhododendrons."
Members have been very generous in forwarding suggestions for research projects and it becomes apparent that priorities and interests vary widely in different regions of the Society. There is, for example, some difference of opinion as to whether initial funds should be used for pure or applied research projects. Happily, there is a thread of continuity through all regions and segments of the Society as to the necessity and even urgency of the need to get started as quickly as possible. Any decisions as to priorities would necessarily have to be made by the Trustees who would lean heavily on the advice of the Society's Research Committee, directors and officers and on the thoughtful comments received directly from the membership.
Right now, it would appear as though there are at least three problems common to all sections of the country. First of all would be Root Weevils which destroy roots and eat the foliage. Little is known on the life cycle of the insects or means of biological control. At the present time effective chemical controls do not seem to be available. There are now reports of new strains of these insects which have appeared in various sections of the country and are currently destructive to many woody shrubs other than rhododendrons.
The second major problem is Phytophthora root rot which is perhaps not as widespread a problem as the weevils but is likely to be present in any sections having relatively poorly drained soil with moderately high soil temperature conditions. Presently there are no really effective chemical controls and infected plants may suddenly wilt and die within a few days.
Azalea Petal Blight has become perhaps the most significant problem facing growers particularly throughout the East and Southeast. Instances have also been reported in other sections of the country. Present controls are not satisfactory although some chemicals show promise. Very little is known about the life history of the fungus except that the disease lives in the soil and tends to re-infect plants in subsequent years. Great numbers of other projects have been suggested and only a few can be recorded here. Some of these are in the field of propagation techniques, including meristem reproduction, bud shield cuttings, seedling growth techniques, and improved propagation methods from cuttings. Other basic research projects center around soils and nutrients, the recognition of deficiencies together with management and control. Breeding problems and techniques are in need of a great deal of study including chromosome research and other factors in cross-incompatibility.
We mentioned earlier that the Society is currently supporting twelve research projects at eight universities. These initial grants were made in 1975 and included the following projects:
Nutritional and cultural practices for container Effect of temperature on pollination. grown rhododendrons. Improving flowering. Establishing container grown plants in the home yard. Effect of herbicides on flowering and rooting Feasibility of shipping bare rooted rhododendrons. of cuttings. Propagation of rhododendrons. Winter protection. Propagation of deciduous azaleas. Root rot disease control. Embryo culture to develop new hybrids. Nature of cold injury.
Dr. Kehr, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Research Committee of the American Rhododendron Society, indicates that preliminary reports on these projects have been received by the committee and final reports will be coming in over the next year or two. All of these will be published in the Bulletin for the information of the membership. He also cites one example that may well illustrate for us the type of work being accomplished.
In the project entitled "Rapid Vegetative Propagation of Deciduous Azaleas through Leaf Bud Cuttings", the initial experiments involved the combination of three different rooting hormones with eight different supplemental rooting chemicals (phenols) at three different concentrations to measure the effect of combined treatments. The total experiment therefore included 72 different treatments of twenty cuttings each. The greenhouse results were supplemented by laboratory analyses using high pressure liquid chromatography to find a physiological explanation of the results obtained. This research grant will be concluded by December 1, 1976 and an article prepared as soon after that date as the results can be analyzed and prepared for publication.
The Research Foundation plans to continue to make grants in the approximate range of $500.00 for each project. All of us recognize the fact that this is a small sum but quite frequently this type of seed money starts a program which is then recognized by other funding sources both governmental and private. These grants create a wave effect. Apparently a project once started has a considerably greater potential for survival through additional grants from other sources than a project without initial funds. One example can be cited from a currently funded project by the American Rhododendron Society. One research project started by an initial $500.00 grant culminated in a $10,000 project sponsored by a state experimental station in local nursery groups.
The primary objective of the Foundation is to create a minimum $100,000 endowment fund. This may not be an easy goal to reach, but certainly there is no other project that will return such cumulative dividends to the general membership in the years to come. Judiciously invested, this endowment fund should allow the Society to undertake several research projects annually. The creation of such an Endowment Fund for research may someday be considered the most significant achievement of the Society.
The fund can be raised in a number of ways. Reduced to simplest terms, it would require an investment of $10.00 a year by each of the members over the next three-year period. For a number of reasons we all recognize that this solution is impractical even though everyone might agree with the fundamental objective. The Trustees hope by hard work to have a successful campaign for major gifts from corporations, individuals and charitable foundations, but the support of all members is vital because the strength of the organization must come from the general membership. Without wide-based support, total commitment to the program is impossible and only lethargy and eventual failure can result.
We shall shortly be asking each of you, where possible, to make a contribution. Counsel has advised that all gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible for Federal Income Tax purposes to the full extent allowed by law. If you should have any individual questions about the Foundation or its objectives, we urge you to feel free to contact any of the Trustees or officers or directors of the Society. In the last analysis, the Foundation can become permanent and viable only if the membership supports and believes in its worth to all of us.
Judson Brooks, Great Lakes Chapter; John P. Evans, California Chapter; Ted Van Veen, Portland Chapter; Edward Dunn, Seattle Chapter and Franklin West, Philadelphia Chapter, are the other Foundation Trustees.