JARS v41n4 - What Has ARS Research Done For You?

What Has ARS Research Done For You?
August E. Kehr, Ph.D.
Hendersonville, North Carolina

What has come from American Rhododendron Society sponsored research? Has it helped you in your garden, helped you in your nursery, helped you acquire better plants, helped you get books and literature, helped you enjoy azaleas and rhododendrons more fully? I believe ARS sponsored research has done all of these things and will continue to accomplish these ends for untold years to come under a plan that was implemented by the Society in 1976. Let me tell you the story.

The Beginnings
In 1968, Dr. Carl Phetteplace, president at that time, decided that our Society should become better acquainted with current research on rhododendrons and azaleas. In that year, he appointed me as chairman of the newly created Research Committee. At first, all that we did was report on research.

Thus, for example, at the 1972 annual meeting in San Francisco, I reported on research done by state and federal researchers under the title, "What's New in '72". It soon became apparent that we had to do more than report research. As a viable Society, it was imperative that we sponsor research of our own as there were decreasing amounts of tax dollars being appropriated on the state and federal levels for this purpose.

Our First Research Attempts
Our first attempts to sponsor research came in 1970-72 when the ARS Board of Directors set aside $8,000 from the proceeds of the ARS Seed Exchange for research projects. Twelve grants were made to researchers from all parts of the country. This resulted in twelve articles in the Quarterly Bulletin ARS and later in the ARS Journal .

The very first grant was made to Dr. W.C. Anderson, Mt. Vernon, Washington, to expedite tissue culture in rhododendrons. From this research came information which started all the present day work on rapid propagation of rhododendrons and azaleas, a sizable industry in itself. In my mind, this one grant alone would justify the total funds we have spent to date for research.

Other notable grants funded by proceeds of the Seed Exchange, along with reference to the printed report were as follows:

Initiation of cold hardiness in azaleas, Dr. Harold Pellet and others, University of Minnesota, Quarterly Bulletin ARS , Vol.31:4 (Fall 1977)

Improvement of rooting cuttings by using fungicides, Dr. John J. McGuire, University of Rhode Island, Quarterly Bulletin ARS , Vol.31:4 (Fall 1977)

Use of leaf bud cuttings for rapid propagation of deciduous azaleas, Dr. Cecil Stushnoff, University of Minnesota, Quarterly Bulletin ARS , Vol.32:1 (Winter 1978)

Mycorrhizal associations in rhododendrons, Dr. Larry Englander, University of Rhode Island, Quarterly Bulletin ARS , Vol.34:1 (Winter 1980)

Effects of herbicides on formation of flower buds and rooting of cuttings, Dr. George Ryan, University of Washington, ARS Journal , Vol.37:4 (Fall 1983) and Vol.39:4 (Fall 1985). These are just samples of the grants sponsored using Seed Exchange proceeds.

Something Better Was Needed - And Started

The Society soon realized that direct expenditure of ARS funds on a hand-to-mouth basis would never be the answer for a long term research program. There was need for something that could be sustained on a long range basis. It was therefore decided to organize a trust fund.

At the annual meeting in Seattle in 1974, this proposal was explained and an appeal for money to start a trust fund was made by Judson Brooks of the Great Lakes Chapter. This appeal brought forth contributions totaling $8,000. Think of it - $8,000 at this one meeting!

Under the guidance of Alfred S. Martin, J. Judson Brooks, Edward Dunn, John P. Evans, Franklin West and Theodore Van Veen additional monies were obtained so that it became feasible to set up the basic document for a legal trust fund. The legal document was signed in Philadelphia on March 13, 1976 with the above men as the first trustees. Perhaps it is of historical interest that our real research beginnings were in the same city as the beginnings of our country, but 200 years later.

The organization of the Research Foundation of the American Rhododendron Society with its trustees placed our funding of research on a sound basis. Under this plan restricted donations to the Research Foundation would never be spent directly but would be set aside for posterity. Only the earnings of such funds may be spent. This action set the stage for building a permanent ongoing research program.

Since 1976 we have been gathering momentum!

Research Under The Foundation
The following grants have been made since the implementation of the Research Foundation in 1976:  1977 - 1, 1979 - 1, 1981 - 2, 1982 - 7, 1983 - 7, 1984 - 5, 1985 - 10, 1986 - 10.

These grants totaled about $55,000, every penny of which came from Research Foundation earnings.

Let me make one thing very, very clear. The Research Foundation is an integral part of the operations of the Society. It is controlled by the Society through appointment of six of its trustees by the Society's Board of Directors and the Society President serves as a seventh trustee. Every year on March 13th, two trustees are appointed or reappointed for a three year term.

The ARS Research Committee solicits grant proposals and makes research grant recommendations. The Trustees of the Research Foundation make the final decisions on the grant awards. In this manner, the Research Foundation and Research Committee both facilitate the research goals of the Society.

A Few Benefits Of Research Since 1976
The definition of research under the auspices of the Research Foundation is purposely a broad one. It is defined as solving problems or meeting the information needs of the Society. With this broad definition the development of new publications, for example, is considered research.

Some benefits of our research include publications generated in full or in part by Research Foundation grants, nutritional studies, propagation improvements, cytological investigations, disease and insect examinations, nomenclature analysis, collection and maintenance data and breeding experiments. These areas of study are but a part of the forty-three grants made in the period 1976-1986. A listing of the 1987 grants appears in another article in this issue.

In the accompanying description of some of the research sponsored by the Society, I am sure you will find ways in which it has been a benefit to you and your garden.

ARS Research Is a Good Investment
The conduct of research is very expensive. The greatest costs are those of personnel, salaries and equipment. If we were to pay the total costs, it would be far too expensive an undertaking.

Our grants are made to qualified individuals, mainly at universities and colleges that already have a sizeable research program. Thus our research grants supplement present ongoing plant research programs by supplying special funds to expand existing plant research programs to include research on the plants in which we are interested. We benefit because we share the use of high dollar items without incurring the total bills

In the same manner, the programs at the various universities and colleges are enhanced by including our plants in their current programs. To conduct expanded research, it is only necessary to use present personnel and equipment on a cooperative basis. Grant recipients in turn benefit from extra funds placed at their disposal from our grants for their research.

The small grants have other advantages. They can act as "seed money" in the sense that research administrators are encouraged to provide additional funds in support of rhododendron and azalea research. In other cases, our funds provide a salary for graduate student help, for temporary labor, or for travel which is often restricted, such as travel out of state for state employed researchers. In a few instances, our grants can be used for special equipment that facilitates both new research on rhododendrons and azaleas and the original research program. In brief, Research Foundation grants provide funds for rhododendron and azalea research to the mutual benefit of all concerned.

The Research Foundation Needs Your Support
Each year, requests for grant funds far exceed the dollars available from trust fund earnings. The ARS Research Committee in recent years has received more than thirty proposals per year. A maximum of ten proposals have been funded in any one year. This means that desirable proposals have been passed over. We are not able to fulfill the potential research demand.

If the amount of money in the trust fund is augmented through increased giving by Society members, a larger number of grants can be supported yearly. In order for the program to continue to grow, it depends on today's support from individuals through gifts, donations, endowments or legacies. Our giving today will support research for many tomorrows.

Some Research Recently Sponsored By The ARS
1.  More than 30 full length articles reporting the results of research funded wholly or in part by grants from the Research Foundation have been published in the ARS Journal (formerly the Quarterly Bulletin ARS ). These are usually identified by the special logo of the Research Foundation. One requirement of each grant is that the research results be submitted for publication in the ARS Journal .

2.  The book, Rhododendrons of China , was made possible by a grant of $1,800 to defray part of the costs of translation from the original Chinese. The American Rhododendron Society and the Rhododendron Species Foundation cooperated in the publication of this book.

3. A Compendium of Rhododendron and Azalea Diseases , edited by Duane L. Coyier and Martha K. Roane and published by the American Phytopathological Society, was supported in part by a research grant.

1.  The University of Dublin received a grant to discover how to inoculate tissue-cultured plants with the beneficial organism called Mycorrhiza . This organism grows in a kind of beneficial partnership with rhododendrons and azaleas helping these plants to obtain additional food and water from the soil and protects them from harmful soil fungi. This project marks the first time tissue-cultured plants have been successfully inoculated with Mycorrhiza . An earlier related grant was made to Larry Englander, University of Rhode Island.

Root showing mycorrhia fungus
Schematic drawing of a root tip showing how
strands of Mycorrhiza fungus are intimately
associated within the root cells as well as without
the roots themselves, thereby providing additional
transport of soil nutrients and water to the host
plant. Our research will eventually enable us to
make use of this fungus for the better growth of
Photo supplied by August Kehr

2.  A grant was made to researchers at Brigham Young University to develop color pictures of minor element deficiencies. Hopefully, these pictures will be published by the Society so that symptoms of minor element deficiencies can be easily recognized by all members of the Society by comparison with the color photographs. These photographs will include deficiencies in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, copper, manganese, iron and zinc.

1.  Tissue culture - Washington State University (See accompanying article for discussion).
2.  Research on the control of root rot in cuttings - University of Rhode Island.
3.  Research on the feasibility of shipping bare-rooted plants - Oregon State University.

1.  Researchers at Pacific University are studying the chromosome numbers in R. occidentale. There are some research papers which indicate this species is a diploid and others that indicate it is a hexaploid.

1.  Two studies on viruses of rhododendrons - Oregon State University.
2.  A study to control root rots by use of soil inoculation with beneficial fungi - Oregon State University.
3.  Breeding for resistance to root rot - Oregon State University.
4.  How to build a back yard trap for black vine weevils - University of Massachusetts.
5.  A study to determine which chemical substances bring about resistance to the black vine weevil, perhaps as a basis to subsequent breeding for resistance - US Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University.

Black vine beetle trap
One experimental trap for catching black vine
beetles in a home yard. Left - bottom, right -
top as removed from bottom. Our research will
tell us how to build the most effective trap.
Photo supplied by August Kehr

1.  A study to determine whether R. minus , R. carolinianum and R. chapmanii are correct botanical names - North Carolina State University.

1.  A study of rhododendron species in about 100 Scottish gardens. Many of these plants have been collected in the past century but their specific identification is not fully known. Already a new species, R. lanatoides , has been found - Cooperation with the Scottish Chapter.

R. lanatoides
R. lanatoides, a new species found
in a Scottish garden as a result of
research funded by the Society.
Photo supplied by M. S. Kessell

2.  Collection of superior clones of R. macrophyllum . These superior clones are being propagated and seed has been placed in the ARS Seed Exchange - Cooperation with the Tualatin Valley Chapter.
3.  Collection and maintenance of Malesian rhododendrons - Lyons Arboretum, Honolulu.

1.  The crossability of rhododendron species. This project has already discovered that Malesian rhododendrons may be crossed with other kinds of rhododendrons and azaleas if the Malesian species are used as seed parents. The reverse cross (i.e. using Malesians as pollen parents) does not succeed. - University of Melbourne.

R. bakeri seedling with hairs
Hairs on seedlings of R. bakeri .
Photos supplied by August Kehr

Vireya seedling with no hairs
Vireya seedling with scales but no hairs.

Hybrid of Vireya and R. bakeri with 
knobbed hairs
Hybrid of Vireya and R. bakeri with knobbed hairs. Prior
to ARS funded research little was known about making
such distant hybrids or why some similar crosses failed.

2.  Breeding cold tolerant azaleas. This project has developed the well known "Lights" series, including 'Spicy Lights', 'Golden Lights', 'Orchid Lights', 'White Lights', 'Rosy Lights' and 'Pink Lights'. These new clones will withstand temperatures of -25 F. and below — University of Minnesota.

Research equipment
Equipment used to determine cold tolerance of
flower buds of deciduous azaleas. Such equipment
is very expensive. Grants funded by the ARS
Research Foundation enable our Society to use
such equipment in cooperative research at a
moderate cost.
Photo supplied by Dr. A. Kehr