THERE is a serious shortage of Norway spruce seeds in storage in Sweden, to the extent that availability of plants and seeds could be limited by as early as next spring. Several factors have contributed to the shortage, including weather conditions, attacks of spruce cone rust and insect infestations.

Svenska Skogsplantor is investing large sums of money in a number of projects primarily aimed at protecting the seeds from spruce cone rust.

Weather conditions in 2018 were good, which looks promising for large-scale flowering this year. Finnvid Prescher, senior advisor at Svenska Skogsplantor, said: “We’ve initiated several activities to ensure the seed harvest. These are unique trials which are very time-consuming, but we don’t have any other choice.“

The projects consist of insulating the spruce flowers by putting bags over them, giving protection from the cone rust spores; trials with so-called antagonist fungi, which attack and kill the spruce cone rust; and trials where extra heat is applied to encourage flowering. 

Prescher added: “We’re doing our best at the moment to ensure a good seed harvest in autumn and alleviate the shortage. At the same time, we’re learning more and more about how to protect the spruce flowers against future attacks.”

Large plantation owners are also carrying out cross-industry projects together, including a research programme which is being financed to investigate how the spruce can be protected against attacks.