US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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J.W."Jerry" Van Sambeek

Research Plant Physiologist
202 Natural Resources Building
United States

Phone: 573-875-5341 x233
Fax: 573-875-0038
Contact J.W."Jerry" Van Sambeek

Current Research

I currently work on research projects that focus on vegetation management in hardwood plantings using native and legume ground covers or interplanting nitrogen-fixing shrubs or trees. We know the addition of nitrogen-fixing plants in tree plantings can enhance establishment and early growth of black walnut; however, we know little about the interaction between nitrogen-fixing plants, oaks, and other Central Hardwood species. New studies are looking at native grasses to identify species that are less competitive than the introduced forage grasses for use in nut tree orchards. In cooperation with the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, we are evaluating shade tolerance of native and forage grasses and legumes for use as ground covers in various agroforestry practices and managed woodlands. I plan to continue adding new information to the vegetation management database that was started to evaluate response of black walnut and other hardwood seedlings and saplings to various ground covers and other establishment practices. Percent change in tree growth compared to trees in vegetation-free plots or plots with weeds is being determined from existing publications and file reports to determine if we can make ground cover recommendations without having to field test all the possible combinations of tree species and ground covers. In addition, I try to maintain an active technology transfer program that includes serving as a Web-based black walnut expert for several organizations and regularly preparing materials for several newsletters.

Research Interests

My future field research will concentrate on evaluating physiological response of hardwood seedlings and ground covers to shade or flooding. We recently renovated a shade tolerance laboratory in which plants are grown under 20 to 100 percent of full sun. In this facility, plants are grown in potting medium amended with slow-release fertilizer and regularly irrigated so that only the light regime affects phenology and productivity. We continue to make design changes in the flood tolerance laboratory installed within a natural floodplain to evaluate effects of flooding on hardwood seedlings. This field facility allows us to control duration, flow, and time of flooding and, to a lesser extent, flooding depth.

Why This Research is Important

The ground cover, especially in hardwood plantings, can substantially alter tree establishment, growth, and productivity. Based on past research, our best cover and nurse crops have been with introduced forage legumes and woody shrubs, several of which are now considered invasive species. My research is trying to identify native ground covers that are easy to establish and maintain, environmentally friendly, and compete minimally with hardwood seedlings and saplings.


  • Washington University (St. Louis), Ph.D. Plant Physiology 1975
  • South Dakota State University, B.S. Biology and Botany 1969

Professional Organizations

  • Society of American Foresters, Member (2009 - Current)
    Participate at the state level with the Missouri Society of American Foresters
  • Missouri Nut Growers Association, Current Vice President (1999 - Current)
    Served on the Board of Directors since 2000 as MNGA Newsletter editor and now as President-elect.
  • Northern Nut Growers Association, Advisory Panels (1980 - Current)
    Serve on the black walnut expert panel as shown on their website
  • Walnut Council, Current Vice President (1979 - Current)
    Served on the Board of Directors since 1980 as either Federal Representative, Walnut Council Bulletin editor, Vice-President, President, or Chair of Education Committee. Have also serve as co-chair of program for several annual meetings. Co-editor for proceedings from three walnut research symposia.

Awards & Recognition

  • Northern Research Station Multicultural Achievement Award, 2012
    Annually given by the Northern Research Station Civil Rights and Diversity Program for their demonstrated contributions to the station's civil rights and diversity program.
  • North Central Research Station Technology Transfer Award, 2000
    Annually presented to an individual or group with outstanding accomplishments in technolgy transfer and given for participation in identifying authors, edting, compiling, and publishing of Knowledge for the Future of Black Walnut as a walnut grower guide
  • Black Walnut Achievement Award, 1988
    Annually presented by the Walnut Council (International) to person or group with outstanding achievement in the areas of walnut research or technology transfer and service to the organization.

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Last updated on : 06/03/2016