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Technology being trialled at Moray's Newton tree nursery could revolutionise forestry

By Lorna Thompson

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A MORAY tree nursery has been trialling a revolutionary technology that could help meet the country’s ambitious tree planting targets.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is attracting attention from across the forestry sector through trials at Newton tree nursery, near Elgin, of a TreeTape technology that will help increase the number of viable seedlings grown from seed.

This will help ensure the continuity of tree supply required to meet the Scottish Government’s tree planting targets in response to the climate emergency.

The TreeTape technology emerged from last year’s CivTech challenge in which FLS partnered with Cumbria Tree Growers to support the firm's development of the new method of establishing young saplings.

Early signs from the trials suggest TreeTape will have a hugely positive impact on seed propagation in years to come.

Josh Roberts, FLS innovation manager, said: "One of the responses we had to last year’s CivTech Challenge – to make better use of Scotland’s tree seed supply – was for a system of mechanically sowing seeds in special pods – like little cells joined in a continuous ribbon of tape.

Seed tape being loaded at Newton tree nursery, near Elgin.
Seed tape being loaded at Newton tree nursery, near Elgin.

"Recent field trials allowed a team of three (one tractor driver and the two people feeding the tapes into the machine) to plant 150,000 trees in an hour. This is in stark contrast to the old technology, which was the industry standard for decades, that would allow a team of seven to only plant 60,000 trees in one day."

The recent trial saw 400,000 seedlings planted in total. Another trial is planned for September.

Mr Roberts added: "This new technological approach is a great leap forward in itself. There is, however, even more potential waiting to be tapped when we combine it with other products that were developed in last year’s CivTech Challenge, such as moisture retaining seed coating and seed priming technologies.

"These other products could be combined with the mechanisation aspect of TreeTape to bring about a real step-change in our ability to germinate seed and grow greater numbers of young trees."

The FLS team at Newton Nursery will be monitoring closely how well the saplings planted with TreeTape grow over the next year.

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