Yews in Connecticut
Richard S. Cowles
Conn. Agric. Expt. Station, Valley Lab.
P. O. Box 248
Windsor, CT 06095
Connecticut has approximately 500 acres of nursery land devoted to production of yews, making it the top ranking state in New England for yew production, and approximately 3rd in the nation, following Michigan and Ohio, which have an estimated 8,500 and 4,000 acres, respectively. Other states with significant field production of yews include New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Nine nurseries in Connecticut were identified by state nursery inspection personnel as still producing yews. Production information, including the use of pesticides, was determined by interviewing growers at these nurseries during February, 2000. Approximately 70 acres are harvested in Connecticut each year, for a wholesale value averaging $30,000 per acre. Production of this crop is rapidly declining in our area. Most growers cite the attractiveness of yew to deer browsing as a major factor in loss of marketability, along with a change in consumer preference towards more colorful ornamentals. Furthermore, the remaining growers have difficulty in controlling black vine weevil and Fletcher scale, so the value of the existing crop is uncertain. Combined with the fact that Taxus is a slow growing crop, and is labor-intensive to produce and harvest, most growers have decided that yews are unprofitable. They are shifting toward producing other crops, such as tobacco, boxwood, euonymus, or forsythia, or are developing the land for real estate. In Connecticut, 99% of yews were harvested for wholesale and 1% for retail marketing.
Field-grown yews are harvested as ball-and-burlap shrubs, which means that soil is removed from the field with an extensive root ball. The soil conditions amenable to this production system are sandy and sandy loam soils relatively free of gravel and rocks. These soils tend to be located within the Connecticut River Valley and along coastal Connecticut.
Several cultivars of yew are grown, most of which are hybrids between the English and Japanese yews, Taxus baccata and T. cuspidata. These varieties are often described by their growth habit as "spreader" yews, but all share the same trait that as hybrids they require propagation from cuttings. Examples of these varieties are 'Densiformis,' 'Tauntoni,' 'Hicksi,' 'Hatfield,' 'Brownii,' and 'Greenwave'. The exception is cultivation of T. cuspidata 'Capitata', or 'upright yew,' which is grown from seed obtained from Japan. Seeds or cuttings are grown for one year in a greenhouse, then are taken to the field and grown for another one to two years in a liner bed. A liner bed typically is 4 ft wide and contains a plant density of 80 per square foot. Liner beds and perhaps the first-year transplants are typically the only locations that are irrigated. Irrigation uses impact sprinker heads mounted on vertical risers. Liners are then transplanted to the field, where they may be grown in 2 by 2 foot spacing. When these plants have grown sufficiently (~5 years), alternating plants may be dug, leaving plants growing in a diagonal pattern on 3 by 3 foot spacing. Two years later, the field may be dug again, restoring a square pattern and plants on a 4 by 4 foot spacing. The final harvest may involve specimen plants that have grown in the field for 10 - 12 years. Field-grown nursery production of fine quality yews is a labor-intensive practice, involving annual shearing ($800 per acre) and cultivation (machine and hand) to reduce weed competition. Harvesting costs are $3.00 - $5.00 per plant, depending on size, for a cost of approximately $7,000 per acre. Yews are grown in a weed-free system involving cultivation and/or herbicides to avoid plant competition and infestation by Japanese beetles, which lay eggs near grassy weeds (Smitley 1994).
|Production Facts||Insect Problems: Black Vine Weevil||Insect Problems: Fletcher Scale & Mealybugs|
|Insect Problems: Mite Pests & White Grubs||Insecticide Products||Herbicide Products & References|
|BLACK VINE WEEVIL BIOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT ARTICLE|