Research and funding model to improve national tree stock launched

Widespread consultation in the tree and forestry sector has led to publication of a National Tree Improvement Strategy (NTIS) for the UK and Ireland.

Image: Patrik Ulvdal (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Image: Patrik Ulvdal (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Overseen by the voluntary Future Trees Trust and covering research, governance, funding, intellectual property and communication, the NTIS aims to bring together public, private, charity and academic representatives to ensure that conifer and broadleaved tree improvement progresses with less reliance on public sector funding. 

NTIS Steering Group co-chair and Duchy of Cornwall head forester Geraint Richards said: "Through selection and breeding of a wide range of tree species capable of thriving in UK conditions - broadleaves and conifers, native and exotic – we aim to promote economic value, genetic diversity and species resilience; producing trees with good vigour and timber quality, showing resistance to known pests and diseases and able to withstand the seasonal and longer-term climatic variations, whilst ensuring all selected material is available to all interested parties."

The National Tree Improvement Strategy is intended as "an umbrella strategy" for work on tree breeding already under way under the Science and Innovation Strategy for Forestry in Britain, A Future for Broadleaved Trees, the Conifer Breeding Co-operative and others.

It notes that between 2010 and 2014, Forest Research's tree breeding research budget fell by half to around £400,000 a year.

"At the moment between FR, FTT, the Conifer Co-op, and Chalara-resistance funding from DEFRA, there is approximately £1m spent annually on tree breeding in the UK," it states. "This is for an industry worth £1 billion a year in Scotland alone."

The strategy warns: "Failure to invest in tree breeding may result in our forests becoming less diverse and more vulnerable to adverse biotic and abiotic change."

It identifies possible future funding sources as: processors and nurseries, Research Councils; "some form of levy system", tax allowances, charitable trusts and crowd funding.

And in calling for "fair and equitable" intellectual property rights, it states: "No intellectual property should be owned by a single or group of organisations unless they exclusively pay for it."

The 16-page pdf document can be downloaded for free from the FTT website.

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