Scientists & Staff

Keith Woeste

Research Plant Molecular Geneticist
Hardwood Tree Improvement & Regeneration Center, 715 W. State Street
West Lafayette, IN, 47907-2061
Phone: 765-496-6808

Contact Keith Woeste

Current Research

The Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC) performs research in four areas that develop and disseminate knowledge on
  1. improving the genetic quality of hardwood tree species,
  2. conserving fine hardwood germplasm,
  3. restoring and regenerating sustainable hardwood forests and riparian zones for production of forest products and maintenance of genetically diverse ecosystems, and
  4. forest genetics and genomics.

The HTIRC is a unique regional and collaborative research, development and technology transfer effort that applies classical breeding, genomics, genetic modification, advancedpropagation, production, and silviculture to benefit industry, private landowners and the scientific community

Research Interests

  • Understanding of the genetic and epigenetic regulation of wood grain formation
  • Use of RFID technology to monitor and maintain long-term field studies
  • Butternut conservation breeding and genetics
  • Chestnut reproductive biology and gene flow after species reintroduction
  • Marker-assisted breeding and selection in hardwoods
  • Genetics of hardwood nursery stock growth and outplanting performance
  • Use of hybrids to improve growth and quality of hardwoods

Why This Research is Important

Fine hardwoods such as black walnut and white oak are an important economic and ecological resource. Landowners in the Central Hardwood Region have a long history of afforestation and interest in obtaining the highest quality planting stock. They look to the Forest Service and other public agencies to provide them with guidance concerning the best practices for establishing and managing their forest plantings. Basic research in the biology and genetics of fine hardwoods has lagged behind that of conifers over the last century. The pressures of increased demand for hardwood products, urban expansion, and the limits placed on logging on public lands have meant that we need to find ways to make more hardwood on private lands. Most forest landowners in the Central Hardwood Region own small properties and there are few large, industrial holdings. Thus, research and technology transfer must address highly localized needs.


  • University of California, Ph.D. Genetics, 1994
  • University of California, M.S. Genetics, 1993
  • University of California, M.S. Horticulture, 1990
  • Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, M.Div. , 1986
  • University of Florida, B.S. , 1980

Professional Organizations

  • American Society of Plant Biology

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

1. A northern red oak shoot in the spring, a tiny flower is at the center of the circle.
2. Northern red oak seedlings planted by USDA Forest Service scientists to study the growth and quality of selected parents used for breeding at the Indiana State Tree Nursery.

High quality nursery grown red oak seedlings provide a good start for forest restoration

Year: 2017

Forest Service tree breeders working with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are developing high quality, genetically diverse oak seedlings in nurseries to help restore degraded forests and generate new forests. Landowners who purchase and plant these seedlings can be confident that the seedlings will grow into trees that deliver a variety of desired benefits.

American elm cuttings growing in the greenhouse. Kathleen Knight, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Elm Disease Resistance Research Gets a Boost

Year: 2016

Great news for disease-tolerant American elm! A grant from The Manton Foundation has provided the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station with an opportunity to accelerate American elm research in collaboration with Nature Conservancy.

A butternut tree in southern Wisconsin with symptoms of butternut canker disease. This tree will die soon. Although other butternut trees in the same stand are relatively healthy, their resistance is not genetic but based on favorable site conditions. Nicholas LaBonte, Purdue University

Surviving Butternut Trees Benefit From Better Sites Rather than Disease Resistance

Year: 2015

Butternut trees are rapidly disappearing because of butternut canker disease. Rare healthy trees appeared to hold hope for resistance to butternut canker. Unfortunately, a 10-year study by Forest Service scientists shows that these trees are not genetically resistant but possibly growing in drier sites that prolong their lives. A successful recovery strategy for butternut trees must integrate Forest Service expertise in tree breeding and forest management to identify sites where trees are less susceptible.

Last modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2019