11 April, 2001

Antonio J. Palazzo, Research Agronomist

Conservation research, the improving of land maintenance and repair techniques for enhancing the Army mission through environmental quality, is Antonio ("Tony" to his colleagues) Palazzo's area of expertise at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover, New Hampshire. In order to address the ever-increasing stresses on Army lands, Tony's research supports efficient use of military properties through the rejuvenation of damaged areas.

Tony Palazzo's research focuses on increasing the availability of military training lands through enhanced plant resiliency and strengthened selective breeding programs. Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) techniques are used in the identification of genetic markers that link to the desired resiliency characteristics of plants needed for low-maintenance high-use lands.

Following the Army's directives, native plants must be used to rejuvenate damaged lands. Tony Palazzo's research attempts to breed new native plant germ plasms for better growth on these lands and to demonstrate their success for marketing. Tony emphasizes that they are not breeding new plant species, but cultivars that are an improvement of a native species.

These new plant cultivars must be able to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as cold, infertility and drought as well as soil compaction and wear from military training maneuvers. In order to survive; the plants need to germinate and establish themselves rapidly, tolerate poor soil, spread in damaged training-intensive areas and propagate broadly. Tony Palazzo has the experience and training to address these research challenges. Three grasses are already patented and numerous others are in various stages of development.

In the breeding process, Palazzo's objective is to match the plants to the military's existing land. This means that the plant needs to fit the use and the soil of these lands. For example, will cattle graze the lands or will the lands be used for tank maneuvers and how can plants survive this use? Cost must be also considered. Because of the costs of manpower, nutrients and organic matter, it is too expensive to adapt the soil to the plant.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture tends to breed higher value plants (i.e. for food sources or turf) but not many low-maintenance grasses. CRREL provides the largest U.S. breeding program of low-maintenance grasses. Tony Palazzo concentrates his research at CRREL on the breeding programs of low maintenance grasses for use on military lands, super fund sites, mine lands, parks and along highways. Ten or more years are needed to breed a new plant cultivar.

Facilities for this research program include a greenhouse for the study of roots, plants and their growing process; two environmental chambers for providing a variety of temperature conditions and some small plots for testing the cultivars. For a look at CRREL's facilities for conservation research go to http://www.crrel.usace.army.mil/gcd/facilities.htm. Click on "greenhouse" for descriptions, photos, links and Tony Palazzo's contact information.

Further information on Palazzo's current and past projects as well as his photo and contact information, may be obtained from his CRREL web page at http://www.crrel.usace.army.mil/gcd/personnel/palazzo.html.

By Sandra Kolb, March 2001

Antonio (Tony) Palazzo in his CRREL office. Photo by Sandra Kolb.

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