November 8, 2022
Sycamore success stories at Future Trees Trust
Since 2019 Vastern Timber has supported the Future Trees Trust in their work to help future forests thrive. The FTT is the only UK charity working to improve broadleaved trees by conventional selective breeding. Their researchers work to ensure that the next generation of broadleaved trees will deliver all the environmental, social and economic benefits that they possibly can.
As part of their ongoing work with sycamore, the team is currently establishing trials that are the “culmination of years of design and planning.” We asked head of research Dr Jo Clark to tell us more:
The Future Trees Trust has been working to bring improved sycamore seed to market since the mid-2000s. Over 200 plus trees (individuals with superior timber form) have been selected, with many of these grafted into five productive seed orchards.
Qualified seed for sycamore is now widely available for the forestry sector.
To investigate the quality of these selections, two progeny trials testing a small number of ‘plus trees’ were planted in 2016 and we’re establishing a series of much larger trials, which will test a greater number of trees and can, at the end of trialling, become Tested seed orchards. The results of the trials will also guide ‘rogueing’ at the existing clonal seed orchards, to improve the quality of the seed produced at those sites.
During 2021 we sought landowners to host these trials, collected seed from 111 plus trees at the established seed orchards and sourced 9 control seedlots from the UK and Europe.
Our work on this project has been generously funded by Vastern Timber over 3 years, with the final donation doubled through the new 1% Woodland Tax initiative. This support has been crucial in driving forward this project and allowed the collection of such a large number of test seedlots.
Progress in 2022: Raising plants
During 2022, the test and control seedlots sourced in autumn 2021 were stratified at Forestart and then raised into cell-grown plants by Cheviot Trees. The seedlots were sown directly into cells once the seeds began to chit and grown first in a polytunnel and once germinated, placed outside.
In October 2022 FTT staff took a stock take of the plants and found they had grown well with only one family of the 120 seedlots collected not producing enough plants for robust testing.
Next Steps: planting trees
With the plants growing well at Cheviot, our next steps are to sort and despatch them to the correct sites, mark out each trial and then plant the trees. All four sites will be marked out and planted this coming winter with FTT staff responsible for establishing the three GB sites in November and January. FTT have employed a short-term member of staff to provide assistance over the winter.
The establishment of these trials will be the culmination of years of design and planning. The support Vastern Timber have provided the sycamore programme through their annual donation and the recent 1% Woodland Tax has been instrumental in driving this work forward and ensuring we have Tested sycamore seed in the near future. We are extremely grateful to the support provided by Vastern Timber and look forward to sharing results.