Buffalo Trace Teams With University of Kentucky for White Oak Study

Buffalo Trace Distillery and the University of Kentucky have joined forces on a 15-year research project to study the genetic responses of trees from various regions to different white oak forest establishment techniques in a rural field application.   

The study, part of the White Oak Initiative, kicked off with the planting of 1,066 trees on the farm at Buffalo Trace Distillery on April 12.  Officials from both Buffalo Trace and the University of Kentucky joined volunteers to plant seedlings from 40 different parent trees originating in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.  New seedlings will be added over the next two years from multiple states, with a goal of more than 100 different seed sources planted overall.

The white oak trees planted at Buffalo Trace will provide information on best practices for establishing seedlings critical to the success of a massive white oak genetics and tree improvement effort being spearheaded by the  University and supported by white oak dependent industries.

Six different establishment technique variations are being used for the plantings at Buffalo Trace, which include tilling with cover crop of orchard grass or winter wheat, use of herbicide, planting directly into the fescue, and various irrigation methods for each technique. This is the first time irrigation has been combined with the different establishment techniques, making the planting site unique.

“We’re excited to partner with UK on this project,” Dennis Walsh, homeplace manager, Buffalo Trace Distillery, said in a news release. “It’s important that we look towards the future and how we can contribute to the sustainability of the white oak industry. The project will also assess the cost per board foot required to maintain a sustainable supply of new white oak long into the future.” 

University of Kentucky Jeffery Stringer, Professor and Chair, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, added, “This research project is vital to ensure success of our genetic and tree improvement efforts aimed at ensuring conservation of our white oak resources, not only for the economic future of the distilled spirits industry, but also the ecological benefits white oak adds to the forests and to human life.”

Buffalo Trace may add tours of the farm in the future, which would include education about its participation in the White Oak Initiative.  The distillery also may be able to use some of the oak trees it has planted for future barrel experiments.  

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