Scientists & Staff

Jerry Van Sambeek

J.W."Jerry" Van Sambeek

Research Plant Physiologist
202 Natural Resources Building
Columbia, MO, 65211-7260
Phone: 573-875-5341 x233

Contact J.W."Jerry" Van Sambeek

Current Research

I currently work on research studies that focus on vegetation management in hardwood plantings using forage and native grasses and legume as ground covers or interplanted nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs in mixed hardwood plantings. We know the addition of nitrogen-fixing plants in tree plantings can enhance establishment and early growth of black walnut; however, we know little about the interaction between nitrogen-fixing plants, oaks, pecans, and other Central Hardwood species. My studies look at native legumes and grasses to identify species that are less competitive than the introduced forage species found in tree plantings and orchards. In cooperation with the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, we are evaluating shade tolerance of native and forage grasses and legumes for use as ground covers in various agroforestry practices and managed woodlands. I continue to add new information to the vegetation management database that I use to evaluate response of hardwood seedlings and saplings to various ground covers and other establishment practices. Percent change in tree growth for saplings grown with different ground covers are compared to growth of saplings in vegetation-free plots or plots with weeds from personal research, file reports, and published information. This allows us to ground cover recommendations for tree plantings without having to field test all the possible combinations of tree species and ground covers. Other research looks at ways to improve hardwood planting stock or planting methods to improve post-planting survival and growth in bottomlands, orchards, and urban plantings.  In addition, I try to maintain an active technology transfer program that includes co-editing proceedings, serving as a Web-based black walnut expert for several organizations, and regularly preparing content for several user-oriented newsletters.

Research Interests

My field research concentrates on evaluating the physiological responses of hardwood seedlings and ground covers to shade, flooding, and other stresses. We renovated an existing outdoor shade tolerance facility so we can grow plants under 20 to 100 percent of full sun with shade as the only significant stressor affecting plant phenology, productivity, and forage quality.  We have also created a shade tolerance laboratory in an existing hardwood planting to evaluate ground cover responses to both green shade (tree canopies) and tree competition within north-south alleys of three different widths.  We made design changes in a flood tolerance facility installed within a natural floodplain to evaluate effects of flood duration, flow, and to some extent depth on survival and growth of hardwood seedlings. 

Why This Research is Important

The ground cover in hardwood planting can substantially alter tree establishment, growth, and productivity. Based on past research, our best cover and nurse crops have been introduced forage legumes and woody shrubs, several of which are now considered invasive species. Knowing which plants are shade or flood tolerance for use in hardwood plantings will increase biodiversity and habitats for a wider range of other species.  My research is trying to identify native ground covers that are easy to establish and maintain, shade tolerant, environmentally friendly, and compete minimally with hardwood seedlings and saplings.  


  • University of Missouri, Post-Doctoral Research Associate Plant electrophysiology, 1975
  • Washington University (St. Louis), Ph.D. Plant Physiology, 1975
  • South Dakota State University, B.S. Biology and Botany, 1969

Professional Experience

  • Research Plant Physiologist, NC-4154 and NRS-11, Columbia, MA 1998 - Current
  • Project Leader and Research Plant Physiologist, NC-4151, Carbondale, IL 1989 - 1997
  • Research Plant Physiologist, NC-4151, Carbondale, IL 1980 - 1988
  • Research Plant Physiologist (Biochemist), SO-2203, Pineville, LA 1976 - 1979

Professional Organizations

  • Forest And Woodland Association Of Missouri (2008 - Current)
  • Missouri Forest Resources Advisory Council (2003 - Current)
  • Missouri Nut Growers Association (1999 - Current)
    Board of Directors
    Served on the Board of Directors since 2000 as MNGA Newsletter editor, President-elect, President, and Past-president.
  • University Of Missouri Center For Agroforestry (1998 - Current)
  • Association for Temperate Agroforestry (1993 - Current)
  • Northern Nut Growers Association (1980 - Current)
    Black walnut expert panel
    Serve on the black walnut expert panel as shown on their website
  • Walnut Council (1979 - Current)
    Served on the Board of Directors since 1980 as either Federal Representative, Walnut Council Bulletin editor, Vice-President, President, or Chair of Education Committee. Have also serve as co-chair of program for several annual meetings. Co-editor for proceedings from three walnut research symposia.

Awards & Recognition

  • Elected President, Walnut Council International, 2014
  • Northern Research Station Multicultural Achievement Award, 2012 Annually given by the Northern Research Station Civil Rights and Diversity Program for their demonstrated contributions to the station's civil rights and diversity program.
  • Associate Editor appointment, Agroforestry Systems, 2011 Approved as Associate Editor to handle submissions related to shade tolerance of plants grown in different agroforestry practices
  • North Central Research Station Technology Transfer Award, 2000 Annually presented to an individual or group with outstanding accomplishments in technolgy transfer and given for participation in identifying authors, edting, compiling, and publishing of Knowledge for the Future of Black Walnut as a walnut grower guide
  • Cooperative Full Professor, University of Missouri, 1996 Approved by tenured faculty to Graduate Faculty for School of Natural Resources
  • Volunteer Program Forest Service Employee Award, 1996 Recognized by the Volunteer Program for the USDA Forest Service as National Volunteer -- Forest Service Employee for achievements in volunteer program at the Carbondale Forestry Sciences Laboratory
  • Elected President, Walnut Council International, 1991
  • Technology Transfer Excellence Award, North Central Research Station, 1990
  • Black Walnut Achievement Award, 1988 Annually presented by the Walnut Council (International) to person or group with outstanding achievement in the areas of walnut research or technology transfer and service to the organization.

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Other Publications

Van Sambeek, J.W.  1986-2009. Annotated Black Walnut Literature.  Walnut Council Bulletin.  Volumes 13-36.

National Research Highlights

Fourteen-year-old oaks planted as repeatedly air-root-pruned container stock on mounds on a frequently flooded site high in clay with poor internal drainage. Jerry Van Sambeek, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Repeatedly Air-Root-Pruned Container Stock Out-performs Bare-root Planting Stock after 10 Years

Year: 2016

Repeated exposure of tree roots to air, known as air-root-pruning, provides swamp white oak seedlings that continues to out-perform nursery bare-root planting stock after 10 years.

Last modified: Monday, February 06, 2017