Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our Latest from the Woods newsletter (previously Forestry Latest News), which is emailed out at 4PM every Friday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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WHEN it comes to increasing their yield, the UK’s tree nurseries haven’t been shy in trying new things. Whether it be different species, vertical tree farming, or even somatic embryogenesis (an advanced vegetative propagation technology), growers up and down the country have been doing their bit to claw back ground on the nation’s tree-planting targets. 

Now, there’s an alternative solution in town. 

Originating in Lund, Sweden, OptiBoost is a vacuum impregnation (VI) technology that is said to improve the rooting and growth of forest cuttings. Guaranteeing that each individual cutting receives the optimal conditions for survival and successful rooting, the system has been shown to increase yields by up to 42 per cent, with around 92 per cent of trees put through the system thriving. 

And it has come a long way in a short space of time. 


After several tests and trials, the first prototype was put into the field in South Africa in 2021 for the treatment of Eucalyptus cuttings, showing, OptiBoost says, very good results. Another pilot was conducted in South America, and enjoyed similarly encouraging yields. 

“The OptiBoost technology was developed by scientists at Lund University in Sweden,” said CEO Thomas Lundqvist. “They were actually studying why some types of grass survive the winter while others don’t. 

Forestry Journal: The system was developed in Sweden The system was developed in Sweden (Image: Supplied)

“Vacuum infusion or impregnation was one of the methods studied. Fast forward a couple of years and the company was formed, and looked into multiple application areas, of which one happened to be forest cuttings.

“The vacuum impregnation technology introduces external liquids into porous structures such as plant tissue. The treatment chamber is optimised to enable the nutrient solution to efficiently reach the cells of the treated cuttings. The cuttings are impregnated with the optimal amount of solution.  

“The tissue is immersed in the liquid and subjected to a two-phase pressure change. The liquid infused into the material may have different properties, and VI can thus be used to change the composition of plant tissues.”

That all sounds encouraging for the UK’s foresters – struggling to meet targets of creating 30,000 hectares of new woodland annually – and OptiBoost has already been embraced by their international peers. Last year, Chilean company CMPC entered into a long-term partnership with OptiCept Technologies (OptiBoost’s parent firm), focusing on transitioning from seed propagation to cuttings. 

This was followed by news that OptiBoost had broken into the Chinese forest cuttings market, when agreement was reached between the company and Guangxi Shichen Group (GSG) and the Guangxi Academy of Forestry. As a result, a pilot project for treating various cuttings was also launched, with at least 20 million cuttings to be treated during the first year. A commercial volume target of 200m cuttings could be reached within three years. 

“In China we started out with trials of Acacia cuttings,” Thomas said. “Acacia is found in various countries around the world, and they are particularly diverse in terms of species and distribution. The trials concluded that we increased the average rooting across all clones by 48 per cent, for some we even managed to increase by 99 per cent.

Forestry Journal: Thomas during a trip to China Thomas during a trip to China (Image: Supplied)

“We also have data from trials with Corymbia in South America. The Optiboost  vacuum infusion treatment showed excellent results across the 32 different Corymbia clones included in the screening trials, with an average improvement surpassing the control by reaching up to 27.8 per cent more rooted cuttings, and a remarkable 392 per cent increase in yield compared to the control for some clones.”

By now you may be thinking this all sounds very promising, but wondering how exactly it works. In short, the vacuum impregnation machine contains water with a nutrient solution developed using nanotechnology. A vacuum is built up in the upper part of the chamber via vacuum pumps.

Forestry Journal:  Stone Wang, process engineer at OptiCept, conducting a treatment of cuttings at uangxi Academy of Forestry in China with the OptiBoost application. Stone Wang, process engineer at OptiCept, conducting a treatment of cuttings at uangxi Academy of Forestry in China with the OptiBoost application. (Image: Supplied)

When a vacuum occurs, the air in the plant’s cell walls is sucked out, and when the vacuum then releases, the nutrient solution migrates in instead of the previous air. In this way, the cell walls are filled with the water-based nutrient solution instead of air.

A vacuum cycle with impregnation often takes no more than 30 seconds, and the results appear to speak for themselves. 

In terms of the UK, Thomas is keen to link up with a nursery and show how OptiBoost’s technology could be another cog in the wheel of the country’s tree planting. 

“So far we have implemented our technology on tropical and sub-tropical tree species,” Thomas added. “But any forest company or nursery propagating trees by cuttings could benefit from our method. 

“We have high hopes for pine for example. We are always on the lookout for partners to develop and explore new areas together with. The process inserts a quality improvement and makes the process more efficient, that would apply to the UK as well of course.”  

To find out more about OptiBoost, visit here.