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$100K Carolina Dogwood Grant Produces Some New Trees

Courtesy of North Carolina State University

Collaborative Funding Grant

A hardy new flowering dogwood tree is establishing a bigger place in North Carolina’s agricultural economy.

It's the result of a research project funded by a $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science at North Carolina State University.

Dogwoods grow wild in high-acid soils across much of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. But plant breeders have tweaked them to produce fancier offspring for growers in the landscape and nursery trade – the sector representing the biggest chunk of North Carolina’s $70-billion-a-year agricultural output, outpacing the state’s high-profile tobacco, cotton and Christmas tree segments.

The flowering dogwood’s prominence as an ornamental lawn planting has become increasingly threatened during the past two decades, however, by a pair of destructive diseases: dogwood anthracnose and powdery mildew.

The North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association decided a disease-resistant, patented North Carolina flowering dogwood was just what the doctor ordered. The doctor they called is Thomas Ranney Ph.D., a professor of horticultural science at NC State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center in Mills River, near Asheville.

With the support of the Biotech Center grant, his second such Collaborative Funding Grant in five years, Ranney hired Research Associate Darren Touchell, Ph.D., to help develop new disease-resistant varieties of dogwood that the growers’ association can commercialize, giving North Carolina producers a competitive edge. 

The "Eureka" moment came in 2014, when the first batch of the official NC state tree hit the market.

Americans already buy nearly $70 million worth of dogwoods a year. North Carolina growers plan to expand that market -- and their share -- with this branded new product line.