Bumper seed crop underpins climate emergency effort

Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, joined Forestry and Land Scotland staff to collect a valuable Scottish resource – tree seeds.

In a bumper year for cones and tree seed, it is estimated that the available Sitka spruce seed for collection in FLS seed orchards could be valued in the region of over £2 million.

Mr Ewing joined the FLS cone gatherers at the Ledmore seed orchard, keen to help secure the seeds that, once cultivated, will form the basis of Scotland’s response to the climate emergency and help power a low carbon economy. 

Mr Ewing said;

“Everyone knows that the most effective response to tackling the climate emergency is to plant more trees – and Scotland is leading the way for the UK.

“This has been a very good year for seed production from all of the main forestry species. With woodland creation now a crucial and critical element in Scotland’s environmental and economic well-being, it is vital that we make best use of this valuable resource.

“Building as large a reserve of seeds as possible is the first step in being able to meet our planned, increased planting targets in the years ahead.

“We are already providing funding to help improve the yield from this seed and increase the number of young trees being grown here in Scotland. It all forms part of our shared national endeavour to plant more trees, so that forests and woodlands contribute significantly to tackling the climate emergency.”

Most forestry tree species have one good year of seed production amongst several years of low production.

Gathering as much seed as possible in the good years is vital to sustaining the nursery sector in the short term and to helping ensure security of future timber supply for Scotland’s thriving £1Bn forestry industry in the long term.

Doug Knox, Head of FLS Technical Services Group, said;

“Forestry in Scotland is in good health – the demand for young trees in Scotland in 2019 was more than double what it was a decade ago.

“It needs to double again within five years to meet our climate change action plan commitments, so this year’s glut of cones is a great help.”

Once the cones are gathered, the seeds are extracted and stored until needed.

Forestry and Land Scotland has recently launched an innovation challenge with CivTech inviting ideas on how to optimise the use of seed in forest nurseries.

It is hoped that innovative ideas can be explored to help reduce losses and maximise the amount of seeds that go on to become transplants that leave the nursery to be planted out in Scotland’s national forests.