Sponsored By
Nebraska Farmer Logo

Halsey Nursery Manager Searching for Eastern Red Cedar ReplacementHalsey Nursery Manager Searching for Eastern Red Cedar Replacement

While red cedars beneficial for conservation plantings, tree has harmed grazing lands.

Curt Arens

August 21, 2014

2 Min Read

With the Eastern red cedar forest growing rapidly across Nebraska, choking out prime grazing land and pushing out native hardwood trees, the cedar tree is considered by many as a weed when it isn't planted in a windbreak. However, this native tree has long been considered one of the best for conservation plantings, because of its value to wildlife, its toughness and survivability.

While Bessey Nursery at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey continues to raise and sell Eastern red cedar trees by the tens of thousands for conservation plantings, nursery manager, Richard Gilbert has been studying alternative species that could replace red cedar as a main species for conservation plantings.


"Bessey has been testing many different species as a substitute for red cedar," Gilbert says. "The big issue you have is that if you find that replacement plant, you are just replacing one weed with another."

Suitable replacement trees exist now, including Ponderosa, Austrian, jack and red pines in certain locations, Gilbert says.

"They do not have as good of survival rate as red cedar and are not as tough, but they also do not spread," he says. "Landowners need to work on management of red cedar," he explains. "Since man no longer allows fire to run across the land, red cedar can spread as fast as possible. Keep the pasture and prairie clear of red cedars, which also protects prairie habitat." He suggests controlling cedars when they are small, because they are easier to cut then, than when they are 20 feet tall.

Some research is being done elsewhere on asexual reproduction of a male Eastern red cedar. "We have tried for many years at Bessey, with little success," Gilbert says. "Tissue culture is another option, however, it is going to take time and money" to be successful.

You can learn more about Bessey Nursery and conservation tree plantings in Nebraska by reading an upcoming print article in Nebraska Farmer on the historic tree nursery at Halsey.

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like