Rick Bates, Ph.D.

Rick Bates, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Horticulture
303 Tyson Bldg.
University Park, PA 16802

Areas of Expertise

  • Informal seed systems in Southeast Asia
  • Temperate zone woody plants
  • Christmas tree management
  • Extension and advisory systems for developing countires


  • PhD., Horticulture, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 1994
  • M.S., Horticulture, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, 1986
  • B.S., Agriculture, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, 1981

Extension Education Programs:
The green industry represents the fastest growing segment of agriculture in Pennsylvania. Growers depend on relevant production and business management resources to remain competitive. As Extension Specialist in Ornamental Horticulture my responsibilities include the development of educational programs for woody ornamental producers and county extension personnel throughout the state.

  • Woody ornamental production and management:
    The goal of this program is for nursery producers and other stakeholders to develop a better understanding of improved production systems, best management practices and adapted landscape plant material. Publications, demonstrations, workshops and training are currently focused on Pot-in-Pot production systems, nutrient management, improving plant establishment and survival and the promotion of new and under-utilized conifer species.
  • Christmas tree production and management:
    Program goals include dissemination of research-based information and recommendations for the cultural management of Christmas trees including species selection, planting, vegetation management, fertilization, shearing and post harvest handling. I also provide leadership in the planning and implementation of the annual Christmas tree management short course.

Research Interests

The primary goal of my research program is to enhance the profitability and competitiveness of the nursery and Christmas tree industry in Pennsylvania. My current research program addresses four areas:

  • Improving establishment and survivability of bare-root trees:
    Bare-root trees produced in the west are an important liner source for Pennsylvania's nurseries. Growers often experience delayed bud break, stem dieback and low establishment rates for certain genera. We have shown that artificially forcing bud break improves survivability for some species. The goal of this project is to evaluate how forcing bud break impacts water stress, stem water relations, establishment and survivability.
  • Christmas tree post-harvest quality:
    Maintaining Christmas tree freshness is of major concern to both growers and consumers. Freshness is determined largely by foliage water content. Cut trees continually transpire water through their foliage; it can only be replenished with stem reserves or basal absorption of water. Cut Christmas trees vary in their drying rate following harvest, and their ability to maintain freshness during display. This research investigates dehydration characteristics, moisture thresholds, needle retention and other post-harvest quality factors for Christmas tree species important to Pennsylvania, such as Fraser fir, Canaan fir, Concolor fir and Douglas fir.
  • Rhabdocline management in Douglas fir:
    Rhabdocline needlecast (Rhabdocline pseudotsugae) can devastate Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and set back salability by years. A new azoxystrobin fungicide is labeled for several needlecast diseases of Christmas trees, but many questions exist concerning how to use this compound in a standard chlorothalonil-based disease management program. This research assesses the impact of application rate, application interval and sequence of azoxystrobin in combination with chlorothalonil, on efficacy for the control of Rhabdocline on Douglas fir.
  • Curriculum development and teaching methods:
    An ongoing research goal is to explore techniques to enhance the extension education system and improve the problem-solving capability of the green industry adult learner. This research focuses on innovative pedagogy and addresses issues such as case study development, novel extension education delivery systems, place-bound access to education and at-distance education opportunities.

Recent Publications

  • Bates, R.M., J.C. Sellmer and D.A. Despot. 2004. Postharvest characteristics of Canaan fir and Fraser fir Christmas trees. HortScience. 
  • Bates, R.M., J.C. Sellmer, T.L. Harpster, and L.J. Kuhns. 2004. Applying accelerated growth production practices to American chestnut. HortTechnology. 14(1) 161-162.
  • Sellmer, J.C., R.M. Bates, T.L. Harpster, D. Despot, and L.J. Kuhns. 2003. Efficacy of fall applied herbicides in Pot-in-Pot nursery tree production. HortTechnology 13(4) 729-730.
  • Bates, R.M., C. Erlien, G.A. Nielsen and C. Montagne. 2002. Exposing agriculture students to GPS/GIS: strategies, outcomes, new directions. National Assoc. of Colleges and Teachers of Agric. Jour. 46(4): 24-28
  • Golembiewski, R., R.E. Gough, and R.M. Bates. 1998. A preliminary assessment of the value of prerequisites in a horticulture curriculum. National Assoc. of Colleges and Teachers of Agric. Jour. 42(4): 34-38.
  • Bates, R.M. and D.A. Baumbauer. 1998. The greenhouse of the future: using a sponsored competition in a capstone course. HortTechnology 8(4): 609-613.
  • Bates, R.M. and A.X. Niemiera. 1997. Effect of cold storage and pre-transplant desiccation on root growth potential and bud break of bare-root Washington hawthorn and Norway maple. J. Environ. Hort. 15:69-72.
  • Gough, R.E. and R.M. Bates. 1996. The readability of current and classic horticulture texts used at three United States land-grant universities. National Assoc. of Colleges and Teachers of Agric. Jour. 40:6-8.
  • Bates, R.M. and A.X. Niemiera. 1996. A comparison of morphological features affecting water loss in Norway maple and Washington hawthorn stems. J. Environ. Hort. 14:71-76.
  • Bates, R.M. and A.X. Niemiera. 1996. Effect of transplanting on shoot water potential of bare-root Washington hawthorn and Norway maple trees. J. Environ. Hort. 14:1-4.
  • Bates, R. M., A. X. Niemiera, and J. R. Seiler. 1994. Cold storage method affects root and shoot water potential of bare-root hawthorn and maple Trees. J. Environ. Hort. 12:219-222.
  • Bates, R. M., and A. X. Niemiera. 1994. Mist irrigation reduces post-transplant desiccation in bare-root trees. J. Environ. Hort. 12:1-3.

Professional Activities:

  • American Conifer Society
  • American Society for Horticultural Science
  • International Plant Propagators Society
  • National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture
  • National Christmas Tree Association
  • Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association


  • American Conifer Society [www.conifersociety.org]
  • Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association [www.christmastrees.org]
  • Penn State Christmas Tree Homepage [http://ctrees.cas.psu.edu]