Editor's Note: As of January 2004, the URL for this company //users.nlci.com/aft/ is no longer working, and a new web address cannot be located. If anyone has information on the status of American Forestry Technology, please contact us.
American Forestry Technology is alive and well in West Point, Indiana. The company, based in Spain, is buying acreage in Tippecanoe County - some of the most fertile soil I've ever seen - and they are planting thousands of hardwood trees as a longterm investment venture.
The company is very well-run, taking very good care of all their trees, using drip irrigation and excellent planting methods, as far as I have seen and heard.
Dr. Walter Beineke, Purdue University professor emeritus, is a consultant with them.
The Journal & Courier - the area newspaper - published a story about the company last year. You can read the story at the following link:
WEST POINT -- More than 300 acres in Tippecanoe County are being planted in a cash crop that won't produce a substantial yield for up to 40 years.
American Forestry Technology Inc. is planting 15,000 black walnut trees on the corner of Indiana 25 South and Tippecanoe County Road 500 West, the company's third large planting of trees in the county.
Surrounded by an 8-foot high chain link fence, its nearest neighbor will be an 8-lot housing development on 500 S., the lots being offered by American Forestry.
For several decades, the company, based in Spain, will nurture the trees into veneer-quality lumber, said Guillermo Pardillo, deputy chief executive officer of the firm with offices, a greenhouse and tree plantations in the West Point area.
The company chose the location because of its proximity to Purdue and the quality of the soil here.
Veneer quality lumber must be free of knots, said Charles Michler, project leader for the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center based at Purdue University.
"The goal is to produce trees without side branches in the lower part of the tree as quickly as possible," Michler said.
American Forestry is a member of the HTIRC, and is funding some of the center's research, Pardillo said.
The trees planted on 25 South "are not just any trees," Pardillo said. "By genetically modifying them, they are going to be fast-growing, straight trees."
Michler said the trees were created by classical breeding.
"These are from trees where you have crossed two good parents and have tested the seedlings and chosen seedlings that perform better than either of the parents they come from," he said.
Pardillo compares the process to breeding animals. The only difference is with trees it takes a lot longer to produce visible results.
"People think to have a tree farm you have to get a tree, plant it, and there you go," he said. But there's a lot more to it.
The American Forestry trees start out as root stock in a nursery bed for one to two years, are then potted, and then receive a graft of an improved variety.
After a year in a shade house, the young trees are ready for planting in fields.
Pardillo said his firm has three 100-acre tree plantations in the area with 45,000 trees kept up by a staff of seven fulltime and 25 seasonal workers.
Mary Schoot, American Forestry Technology's senior research associate, keeps track of individual trees via satellite communication.
"We can see anything that has happened since it's been planted," Schoot said.
Soon after planting the trees in the field, American Forestry sells the plots to investors who will reap the profits several decades from now.
For now, Pardillo and his crew will continue care for the trees.
"Its a real joy to me," Pardillo said. "I'm a forester by trade. I love to watch them grow, and take care of them."