University Protects $400 Million Nursery Industry - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

University Protects $400 Million Nursery Industry

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by Marcus Washington

McMINNVILLE, Tenn. - In the center of a $400 million statewide industry, Tennessee State University's Agriculture department is on the front line.

Sitting 80 miles southeast of Nashville, you will find the "nursery capital of the world" McMinnville, Tennessee.

Tennessee State University's Agriculture research center sits on an 87-acre site. It caters to the 400 nurseries in the area.

"With it being right here, it has acted on one hand as a preventative fire station, so to speak, for every problem we were about to face," said Michael Kassees, president of Forest Nursery in McMinnville.

Everything from a federal quarantine on certain insects damaging the plants, to creating new plant life is done at the site.

"The nursery industry is about a $400-million a year industry in the state of Tennessee, so it's a big component of our industry," said Dr. Nick J. Gawel.

Entomologist Jason Oliver said there are hundreds of insects and problems they battle every year that truly affect the state's nursery industry, which provides trees across the world, including international events like the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"They actually feed underneath the bark of the tree. This causes the bark to die," said Oliver.

Oliver and other researchers are looking at fire ants the federal government wants to keep from leaving our area. They are worried the bugs will move farther north, this would make it tough to ship trees out of Tennessee.

That's where Dr. Karla Addesso and her research come into play.

"Instead of having to treat your flower pots with heavy pesticide chemical that will kill the fire ants, you can treat your pots with a compound they just don't want to be around; so they won't ever go into your flower pots," said Addesso.

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