The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) is launching a flagship programme – Conifers for Colleges – to involve forestry students in research into the species which will ensure a healthy UK timber industry in the future.
Moulton College in Northamptonshire and Myerscough College in Preston are the first to confirm trial plots with planting planned for the autumn. Up to five colleges will be involved during Year One with more joining in subsequent years.
Conifers for Colleges recognises that conifers are vital to the UK’s forestry and timber industries and that the challenges caused by climate change, pests and diseases mean UK timber growers may no longer be able to rely on the traditional big five coniferous timber species – Sitka Spruce, Corsican Pine, Scots Pine, Douglas-fir and Larch – which currently make up around 88% of home grown timber. Foresters of the future will need to know about a wider mix of species and where they are likely to grow best.
Each trial plot will include 400 conifers – a mix of traditional and novel species – and 100 broadleaf seedlings.
In Year One, Alba Trees in East Lothian, Cheviot Trees Ltd of Berwick on Tweed, and Prees Heath Nurseries of Whitchurch, Shropshire, are providing a range of conifer species; and Tubex is providing tree shelters and guards.
Year Two and beyond will see more trial plots established with colleges and the results of initial investigations and monitoring published. Christie Elite Nurseries will be providing seedlings in Year Two.
RFS Education Manager Phil Tanner explained: “Students will be involved in planting and monitoring the trees annually and in developing a variety of research projects, making the information freely available on the SilviFuture database so that woodland owners and managers across the UK will be able to access the information to see what trees might be compatible with their growing conditions.
“The project is providing a unique opportunity for the students involved to get first-hand knowledge of species about which many within the current forestry industry know very little – and it will mean they will be exceptionally well placed when they qualify to help ensure the UK’s timber industry flourishes.
“The RFS will also be publishing the research data and we are keen for more nurseries and others within the industry to get involved in this exciting opportunity to help shape our commercial woodlands for the future.”
At Moulton College, Senior Lecturer James Littlemore describes Conifers for Colleges as a unique opportunity for FE and HE students studying Countryside Management and Arboriculture at the College. He says: “We are very excited as a College to be involved in the ‘Conifers for Colleges’ scheme with the RFS. The new woodland will not only enhance the extent of woodland cover on our estate, but students will be involved at all stages from planting design to planting to maintenance. We will work with the RFS to ensure that students realise the value of conifers is not just in forestry, but in landscape aesthetics and conservation too.”
Duncan Slater, senior lecturer in arboriculture at Myerscough said: “This planting represents a great opportunity for the College to interact further with the forestry industry, which it already helps in terms of the training of students in woodland management practices and practical courses in the use of chainsaws, tree climbing and the safe use of arboricultural machinery.
“Our diploma and degree students are all taught about, and involved in, tree-related research, so this ‘Conifers for Colleges’ project adds another opportunity for learning for both our current and future students and adds to the suite of scientific trials that the College is undertaking on-campus and within the arboricultural industry.”
Welcoming opportunities for the forest supply chain to become involved in the project Simon Place, Tubex UK, Sales Manager, says: “Tubex are proud and excited to be a sponsor of the Conifers for Colleges Project. The idea of involving young industry students and helping them to understand the importance of coniferous species diversification and future woodland resilience, is a very worthwhile project. Tubex is keen to follow the progress closely and assist where we can with our product range, while giving our support to the invaluable work of the Royal Forestry Society and their partners.”
Grant Murray, Sales Director, Alba Trees said: “We are delighted to be helping our industry look to the future and gather knowledge on new species for our woodland resource. We hope that our support of the Conifers for Colleges project will spread that knowledge and allow forestry students to develop their skills.”
For Cheviot Trees, Jonathan Cameron, Sales & Marketing Manager said: “Cheviot Trees are delighted to donate our cell grown trees to a project which enables hands on learning for the foresters of the future.”