Conifer Co-Operative. Q&A with Tim Liddon

Quality Throughout: Proven Professionals

Tim Liddon, Tilhill’s Forestry Director was quizzed about his involvement with the Conifer Breeding Co-Operative, a group dedicated ensuring that there is an adequate supply of improved vegetatively propagated Sitka Spruce resource for growers and to taking forward the breeding programme for Sitka Spruce other important commercial conifers.


Q. What role do you play in the Conifer Co-Operative?

A: I was a founding member negotiating the formation of the Co-op together with others who believe in using better genetics than our first rotation crops. I am a Board member and Company Secretary.

Q. How long have you been involved with the Conifer Co-Operative?

A. Since before its inception in February 2014.

Q. Why do you consider the work they are doing to be important?

A. The work that the Co-op does is like saving the Crown Jewels. In the 1960’s Forest Research identified a large number of ‘plus trees’ which then formed into a breeding population destined to improve the quality of our future Sitka spruce crops. With Government cut backs these plus trees were considered to be under threat and so the first task for the Co-op was to create new clone banks of these plus trees to safeguard them for generations to come. We are now well into that process. 

Q. What is the Conifer Co-op’s greatest achievement that you have been involved with so far?

A. I believe that all their work has been and is very important – a great achievement, but I think the greatest and most interesting work so far has been the work carried out relating to genetics. Gaining a better understanding of genetics is critical to provide reliant forests in the future. We have started creating DNA fingerprints of each of the plus trees and are supporting the Sitka Spruced research project which is looking at genomic selection, which again will hopefully enable us to make better knowledge-based decisions for future crops.

Q. Do you participate in any other industry groups and if so, who?

I work with the Hylobius Industry Research Programme.

I am also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) and recently chaired two series of workshops – the first of which was on the subject of Long Term Forest Plans. Earlier this year I also chaired the Woodland Creation Workshops which were born out of the MacKinnon report.

“We need to stand up and be counted in this era when the private sector is now the dominant operational sector planting more new forests and felling more timber than the State sector.”

Find out more about the Conifer Co-Op here.