The Yale Forest’s Quiet Corner Initiative: Forest Orchard Demonstration Project

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A forest orchard has been established where climate change was considered in plant selection.

The Yale Forest’s Quiet Corner Initiative is a partnership between Yale Forests, neighboring landowners, the local forest products industry, and local conservation initiatives. The Quiet Corner, located in northeastern Connecticut, is one of the last undeveloped areas on the eastern seaboard between Washington, DC and Boston, MA.  The goal of the partnership is to improve forest management, increase ecosystem conservation, and support rural livelihoods in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut. The Quiet Corner Initiative works to achieve these goals by supporting a network of landowners and forestry professionals through forest management services, forest workshops, and demonstration areas.

The newest of these demonstration areas is the Yale Forest Orchard, located at the Yale-Myers Forest in northeastern Connecticut. Established in 2015, this one-acre forest orchard demonstrates a perennial, diverse, and climate-informed planting of edible crops that can be replicated on small woodlots in New England.

Climate Resiliency

The Yale Forest Orchard is made up of a diverse planting of species. This diversity is expected to contribute to the Forest Orchard’s resilience to climatic fluctuations such as drought, flood, and irregular thaws or frosts. The planting selection has diverse cold, drought, and flood sensitivity as well as diverse patterns of budbreak, pollination, and ripening. Most species planted in the orchard are commonly found either in the woodlands of Connecticut or in New England orchards and include species such as hickory, chestnut hazelnut, shadbush, blueberry, and elderberry, as well as heirloom and hardy varieties of pear, apple, peach, quince, and pluot. In the face of an unpredictable climate, this diversity will enable the orchard to reliably produce crops of one type or another in any given year. In addition, compared to annual crops, the hardy bark and deep and extensive root systems of perennial crops make them more resistant to harsh climate extremes.

Climate Adaptation

Additionally, several species planted in the orchard are at the edge of their hardiness zones, including American persimmon, pawpaw, and hickory-pecan. These plantings represent species that may expand their range north under a warmer climate and may perform and produce particularly well in the future.