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New Jersey - Cape May Plant Materials Center

Cape May Plant Materials Center (NJPMC)
Serving areas in the States of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Long Island- New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Virginia

Established: 1965
Size: 83.87 acres
PMC Operation: NRCS
Land Ownership: NRCS and the State of New Jersey

PMC staff member evaluating sea oats planting at Cape May PointThe Cape May Plant Materials Center (NJPMC) provides plant solutions for natural resource conservation concerns pertaining to shorelines, wetlands, sand dunes, nearshore grassland habitat, and critical areas of the New England coast and the Mid-Atlantic coastal plain.

The soils, topography, climate, and land use of the Center’s service area produce a distinct plant resource area. Active sand dunes and localized coastal bluffs exist along the shores. Wind erosion occurs on sandy cultivated fields of the coastal plains. Water erosion is a problem on sloping cropland, and shoreline erosion threatens the tidal estuaries. Agriculture is predominantly cash row crops, orchards, truck crops, specialty crops, and poultry.

There are large areas in hardwood and pine forests. Extensive areas of tidal marsh are vital to the seafood and wildlife resources. Outdoor recreation is a major industry placing extreme pressure on natural resources. Resource concerns include air quality; coastal flooding and associated saltwater inundation and intrusion to groundwater; cover crops; critical/disturbed areas; invasive species; rare, endangered, and threatened species; submerged aquatic vegetation; and urban resource conservation.

The Cape May Plant Materials Center has 15 active conservation plant releases including grasses, shrubs, and forbs for enhancing conservation plantings in their service area.



Enhancing coastal plant systems through plant selection and technology development

  • Plant diversity on sand dunes is broadened through the evaluation of diversified seed mixtures to supplement vegetative plantings. Direct seeding trials have shown potential for other Mid-Atlantic dune adapted species in addition to 'Atlantic' coastal panicgrass.
  • Selection of a cold tolerant sea oats for the northern Mid-Atlantic area is ongoing.
  • High Tide Germplasm switchgrass, a local ecotype from the Chesapeake Bay area, is the only commercially available switchgrass developed specifically for riparian applications and shoreline stabilization.
  • In addition to field testing, controlled environment salinity tolerance trial protocols are being developed to better determine potential plant species that may provide ecological benefits and revenue on cropland impacted by saltwater intrusion.


Ecotypes in support of Farm Bill programs and ecological restoration

  • Selection of Suther prairie native warm season grasses. Suther is a remnant eastern prairie in the piedmont of North Carolina. The Piedmont prairie is a special emphasis area for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in North Carolina. 
  • Direct seeding technologies are being developed and demonstrated to establish smooth cordgrass in intertidal areas for shoreline stabilization.
  • Evaluating success of native plant species to compete with and inhibit the reinvasion of invasive plant species.
  • Researching native pollinator-plant interactions in a cooperative project with Rutgers University.
  • Evaluation of several native warm season grasses for application in riparian buffers.
  • Investigating the direct seeding of shrubs for coastal and riparian areas for wildlife habitat improvement.


Changes in soil carbon by using native grasses and cover cropping systems

  • Soil carbon changes under six native warm-season grasses are being monitored in a 15-year study.
  • Baseline data for soil quality attributes are developed and changes in soil quality from various cover cropping systems are evaluated. Comparisons of long-term warm-season grass, cool-season pasture, annual cover crops/fallow, and mixed stands of cool/warm-season grasses provide information on changes in soil quality.
  • Evaluation of adaptability of several southern legumes for the Mid-Atlantic region.
  • Timber Germplasm switchgrass was selected and released as a high yielding biomass crop.

Cape May Plant Materials Center
1536 Route 9 North
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Phone: (609) 465-5901