Restore and renew

Supplement - Increasing Profits - Containers

Survivability rates must be exceptional for plants used in restoration projects.

August 3, 2016

Aaron Pierce

With no landscape crews to handle plant care and maintenance, restoration jobs are faced with a completely different set of circumstances. Several hundred, sometimes several thousand, plants must be able to survive and thrive on their own after installation. RES (Resource Environmental Solutions) relies on RootMaker containers to grow plants with robust root systems, which increases survivability rates.

RES operates a native grass, plant and tree nursery in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La., near the Gulf of Mexico. Aaron Pierce manages the nursery, which not only grows native species for Gulf Coast restoration projects, but installs the plants as well.

“These plants are going out in the wild, planted and then left alone,” Pierce says. “You’ve got to have something that lasts.”

Pierce discovered RootMaker pots first for his nursery’s trees, and quickly noticed the difference in root systems compared to “slick-sided pots,” he says.

“The root mass is unbelievable. Plants in the RootMaker pots have a very fibrous root mass. And the survivability is outstanding — there is no comparison,” he says. “I also noticed that the trees meet spec earlier when grown in these pots.”

Pierce grows several varieties of trees, including bald cypress, nutall oak, swamp chestnut, tupelo gum, shumard oak, willow oak, water oak and red maple. Most of his tree production is grown in a 1-gallon RootMaker, with the rest in 2-gallon RootMaker pots, and a handful of 5-gallon containers.

“I’ve got about 100,000 trees in RootMaker pots right now,” he says.

All trees are started by native seed, which is collected in Louisiana.

After seeing the success of the trees, Pierce switched most of his native grass production to RootMaker plug trays.

“We just started doing the grasses in the RootMaker trays,” says Pierce. “I’ve got about 125,000 marshhay cordgrass plugs in the RootMaker product.”

The nursery also grows bitter panicum, sea oats, seashore paspalum, vetiver and gulf bluestem, among other native grasses.

Installation services include coastal, dune, and marsh wetland restoration; oyster clutch restoration; barrier island restoration; and terrace establishment and stabilization. One job called for 250,000 plants on 2,000 acres.

“With such a good start in the RootMaker pots, I feel more comfortable leaving these plants out there alone,” he says.

Pierce grew up fishing and boating in South Louisiana, and thoroughly knows the area’s ecosystems. He started a fishing charter business while attending Louisiana Tech, and that’s when he noticed the negative effects of erosion and that his beloved fishing spots were disappearing.

“I figured there was a way to reverse the erosion and I found an opportunity in that field,” he recalls. He started a small nursery in 2004, and during a guided fishing trip, he met an executive at RES. And in 2009, RES purchased Pierce’s nursery, kept him on as nursery manager, and increased the production area. “We were able to scale up our inventory, which is important to do with these types of jobs because they often need 70,000 or more plants,” he says.

The nursery currently manages many restoration jobs for the state of Louisiana, but also works with other government agencies, commercial operations and non-profit organizations.

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