Sea Oats Research,
Education, & Production

PROJECT LEADER(S): David L. Nash
TYPE OF PROJECT: Research/On-Farm/Educational
LOCATION: Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender, and Carteret Counties

IMPACT


Sea oats and other dune stabilization plants are needed to build and stabilize coastal dunes in North Carolina. The growing demand for dune renourishment and revegetation projects provides an opportunity for the development of a coastal plant industry in North Carolina. Production of sea oats and other dune species grown in North Carolina increased in 2002. An estimated 2 million dune plants were grown in NC in 2002 and planted along the NC coast to protect the dune system. The impacts of in-state production of dune plants reach far beyond the initial value of the plants. Tourism is the second largest industry in NC, and the beach is the number one tourist destination. Considering the value of tax revenues generated by the tourism industry and property tax income for coastal real estate, the benefits of beach protection initiatives are quite significant to the economy of coastal counties. Through the educational, research, and marketing efforts of this project, major strides have been made to promote the production of coastal plants in North Carolina.


INTRODUCTION

Sea oats and other dune stabilization plants are needed to build and stabilize coastal dunes in North Carolina. The dunes are a unique ecosystem and conservation and preservation of the dune system is critical for plant and animal habitat protection. The dunes also provide coastal communities with building and infrastructure protection during hurricanes. Developing a coastal plant industry in North Carolina is needed so that native species of dune plants are available for coastal communities. Traditionally, dune plants have been purchased from out-of-state suppliers. North Carolina farmers are being introduced to this opportunity to grow the plants required for dune renourishment and revegetation projects in North Carolina. Research, education, and on-farm trials are all needed to improve production and marketing of sea oats and other dune species.

METHODS

Research projects were conducted in association with NCSU and LSU scientists to examine 58 accessions of sea oat germplasm collected throughout North Carolina and other states where the species occurs. Research was conducted in the greenhouse, and plots were established at beach locations and at an inland farm location. Initial data was collected, and the plots will be utilized for data collection through 2006 and beyond.

Educational outreach efforts were conducted to inform beach-front property owners, elected officials, and employees of coastal communities about the importance of native dune species. Marketing efforts to promote North Carolina-grown dune stabilization plant species focused on demonstrating the ability of local growers to meet the needs of coastal restoration projects. This involved providing information on plant availability and the potential for in-state growers to fill custom orders.

RESULTS

Listed below are programs conducted in 2002 that were in part made possible by funds provided by the Specialty Crops Grant:

CONCLUSION

Production of sea oats and other dune species grown in North Carolina increased in 2002. A new grower in Clinton, NC is now utilizing a portion of his tobacco float system greenhouses to produce sea oats and bitter panicum. An estimated 2 million dune plants were grown in NC in 2002 and planted along the NC coast to protect the dune system. The impacts of in-state plant production reach far beyond the initial value of the plants. Tourism is the second largest industry in NC, and the beach is the number one tourist destination. Coastal counties stand to benefit tremendously from the protection their beaches through tax revenues generated by beach visitors, associated tourism industry employment, and the property tax income generated by billions of dollars of coastal real estate.

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Updated March 24, 2003
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