Suppliers share views on tree seedling market

Two of the country's main tree seedling suppliers gave their views on the market at the APF tree and forestry show earlier this month.

Tree seedlings: recent APF event attended by suppliers - image: Wee Trees
Tree seedlings: recent APF event attended by suppliers - image: Wee Trees

Alba Trees grading manager Chris Allan said: "The grant scheme transition has caused issues and there have been technology problems at the Forestry Commission, which had a knock-on effect on tree nurseries. Brexit is another source of instability. But once things are sorted we will hopefully be back on track."

He added: "Some people are taking our alternative conifers, including western red cedar, Fraser fir and coastal redwood, for pest and disease or climate change reasons, but not in huge numbers - they are still unsure about how they will perform. But the Forestry Commission supports this and we think it's the direction to go in."

Allan explained that the East Lothian company's AlbaCote B controlled-release fertiliser addresses the low boron availability in some acidic soils that can inhibit tree growth, while "for a couple of years down the line" in the tree's growth its AlbaTop top dressing "incorporates various technologies to ensure nutrients are neither locked up nor lost", so minimising leaching to watercourses.

Also claimed not to leach is its recently introduced Merit Forest (imidacloprid) systemic pesticide for the control of large pine weevil, developed with Bayer and ICL. "It fills a gap left by the withdrawal of chemicals like alpha cypermethrin, which weren't that nice for nursery staff," added Allan. "We are now looking at how it performs in the field."

Fellow tree nursery Cheviot Trees was "inundated" at the show, according to sales and marketing manager Jonathan Cameron. "In the south our customers are generally working with smaller areas of land than in the north," he said. "Prompt restocking is important to ensure that land remains productive and these areas are often being used for leisure and recreation so quick cover and establishment is top priority for land managers."

In addition to known provenance, the Berwickshire company markets its stock as "Selected" from registered stands that show superior form, vigour and health than other trees, including stands of non-native species planted on British estates in the 19th century; "Qualified" lines that are expected to show superior characteristics based on their parentage; and "Tested", where the progeny of trees chosen or bred to show measurable improvements in form, timber quality, vigour or health have been assessed.

"Our clients were very receptive to this message as the majority need to substantially increase the amount of woody biomass material that they can produce in order to meet future market demands," said Cameron. He added that the landscape, leisure, recreation, nursery and conservation sectors "can pick up any shortfall if another sector has a quieter period".

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