FIVE companies have been awarded funding to develop solutions to improve the yield from Scotland’s existing seed stock.

Announced in July of this year as part of the Scottish Government’s CivTech 4.0 ‘Innovation Challenge’, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) invited individuals, businesses, universities and stakeholders to consider ways of meeting the challenge of growing more young trees from seed.

The aim of maximising the yield from Scottish tree seed is to boost tree planting in future years, boost the rural economy and strengthen Scotland’s contribution to tackling the climate emergency.

Josh Roberts of Forestry and Land Scotland commented: “The demand for young trees in Scotland in 2019 has more than doubled in the past decade and we need to double it again within five years in order to meet Scotland’s climate change action plan commitments. Unfortunately, only around one third of collected seeds go on to produce young trees.

“The five successful companies selected for the next phase of the Innovation Challenge have put forward strong ideas for systems or processes that could help combat seed losses to predation, weed competition, drought or simply a failure to germinate.

“With the benefit of support from CivTech® and the ‘Can Do’ fund, they will now develop those ideas further with a view to ultimately developing a solution that will benefit both public and private sector tree nurseries.”

The five potential solutions being developed are:

  • Elsom seeds – applying knowledge of seed disinfection and priming technology to develop a range of pre-sowing treatments aimed at inducing rapid, uniform germination and promoting seed vigour.
  • Forestart – designing matting that ensures seeds are laid with the ideal spacing, suppresses weed growth and ensures additives such as fertilisers are delivered directly to the seedlings while germinating.
  • SilviBio – developing seed coating technologies that will retain moisture close to the seed and allow controlled delivery of vital nutrients and active ingredients, resulting in improved seedling emergence and survival.
  • Forest Research/Delta Seeds – developing an automated image analysis platform and simple diagnostic test kit to deliver a seed vigour index and improve seed germination.
  • Cumbria Tree Growers - adapting technological developments from vegetable production for major forestry tree species – planting tree seedlings produced under glass in a unique chain pot system ensuring sowing in optimum conditions.

As well as benefiting the UK’s nursery sector, a proven solution could potentially find markets in other countries that practice a style of forestry similar to the UK, such as Norway, Sweden, France Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada.

Under the current accelerator phase of the challenge, each company now receives £20,000 (plus VAT) to cover the costs of five months of laboratory or workshop testing to create a prototype. The prototype which shows the most potential to become a viable product will then be awarded contracts to carry out the more extensive field testing required to bring the product to market, with funding available for up to three years if needed.