THE Future Trees Trust (FTT) has announced a new Seed Sourcing Grant (SSG) project, funded by the Forestry Commission, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of cherry seed for the UK forestry industry.

This project will capitalise upon a cherry breeding programme started in the 1990s by East Malling Research, now known as NIAB East Malling. With the closure of East Malling Research’s farm woodland programme in 2008, no further work was carried out and existing cherry resources are underutilised. 

This project will run until March 2025 and seeks to understand the diversity within the existing cherry breeding programme, and add new plus trees to the base population, while bringing existing scattered cherry resources together for seed production.

There are currently several seed orchards for wild cherry-producing marketable seed, but the number of plus trees within these is limited, especially for Region 30 seed orchards. Overall genetic diversity within the existing breeding population is currently unknown, as is the S locus – a sequence of DNA that governs a self-incompatibility mechanism – of each tree. Understanding these two aspects of each plus tree will allow FTT to maximise the productivity and genetic diversity of the orchards.

FTT is partnering with Maelor Forest Nurseries, who are carrying out the genotyping work in their genetics lab.

Two new cherry orchards are to be planted: one is in Oxfordshire at FTT’s new research woodland near Uffington through a partnership with the National Trust, funded through the SSG. A second orchard will be established at Maelor Forest Nurseries in Wales.