CivTech seed innovation to help trees grow with less water
A revolutionary new, wholly eco-friendly seed coating and soil treatment that boosts tree seed germination is being trialled at Forestry and Land Scotland’s Newton Nursery with great success.
Growing tree seeds require substantial amounts of water so they can often struggle to germinate in conditions of soil moisture deficit. The new seed coating and soil treatment trap moisture around the seed where it is needed, preventing water from draining away and so giving the seeds a better chance of surviving.
Unlike most conventional products, the new coating manages to trap water without using micro-plastics or petroleum-derived polymers.
The process is being tested and developed by a Scottish start-up, SilviBio, a seed enhancement technology company which emerged last year from a Forestry and Land Scotland inspired CivTech Innovation Challenge – to find ways of improving the yield from tree seed. The project is led by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) with funding from the CAN DO Innovation Challenge Fund.
Alicja Dzieciol, CEO and founder of SilviBio, said;
“We have developed two products that are aimed at increasing conifer seed germination performance – particularly during periods of water deficit – and they can be used in the field or in nursery conditions.
“Initial tests were very encouraging and also helped us to make refinements and improvements that we are testing in a new set of trials beginning last month (May 2021).
“Both products are showing huge potential in terms of increasing seed germination rates; and also in being able to make more efficient use of water, which in years to come is likely to become an increasingly valuable resource in many parts of the world. The results will be known within months and we hope to be able to finesse both products so that we can present them to the market by 2022”
Seeds fail to germinate because of natural processes and phenomena – such as predation, weed competition or drought – and currently, around two thirds of tree seed fails or is lost.
That is a substantial loss of viable material and, with the impact of the Climate Emergency likely to magnify some of these factors, it is vital to find ways of addressing these issues.
Josh Roberts, FLS Innovation Manger, said;
“We are looking to adapt our forestry practices to meet the challenges that are coming our way and that means coming up with new ways of doing things.
“Lab and field trials have so far been very promising indeed. This is a great step forward for forestry and has significant implications for forestry, not just in Scotland but in countries that practice a style of forestry similar to the UK and even further afield.”
“We are watching these trials very closely. As well as being vital to Scotland’s effort against the climate emergency, improvements in yield would help ensure security of future timber supply for Scotland’s thriving £1Bn forestry industry.”
The demand for young trees in Scotland in 2019 was more than double what it was a decade ago and will double again by 2025 if the climate change action plan commitments are to be met. With most tree species only producing seed in particular years, it is imperative that as much of that seed stock as possible is put to use.
One kg of Sitka spruce seed has the potential to produce up to 330,000 seedlings but only 110,000 viable seedlings might leave the nursery as young trees for planting in Scotland.
Notes to editors
Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.