FORESTRY and Land Scotland (FLS) has been trialling a new technology it claims will “revolutionise” tree nursery practices.

The new ‘TreeTape’ technology will help increase the number of viable seedlings grown from seed at Newton tree nursery near Elgin, FLS said.

The product emerged from last year’s CivTech challenge, in which FLS partnered with Cumbria Tree Growers to support its development of this approach to establishing young saplings.

According to FLS, early signs from trails suggest TreeTape will have a “hugely positive impact on seed propagation in years to come”.

John Roberts, FLS innovation manager, explained: “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.

“Recent field trials allowed a team of three (one tractor driver and the two people feeding the tapes in to 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 but we’re planning another in September that will see 4,000,000 planted.”

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 how well the saplings planted with TreeTape grow over the next year.

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