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Creating the perfect seedlings to help green an entire province

In north-west China’s Qinghai Province, a field adjacent to the Xining Forestry Science Research Center is being utilised to monitor and observe the growth of poplar tree saplings as part of ongoing efforts around afforestation across the province.

Once temperatures rise in the province, the Populus cathayana Rehd. and Populus przewalskii Maxim. saplings being grown in the field will be transported and planted in other areas across Qinghai for the purposes of afforestation.

With only a small number and limited varieties of plant species indigenous to the area, the province has traditionally relied on introducing tree seedlings from elsewhere in its afforestation efforts.

However, these seedlings can only be successfully planted after being expertly cultivated to acclimatise them to the unique conditions of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau on which the province is located.

“The breeding of tree species that are suitable for planting on the plateau is a top priority in our work,” said Zhang Jinmei, Director of the Xining Forestry Science Research Center.

The work of Zhang and her team in this area began in 2008, following the discovery of a 200-year-old stand of the endangered native species Populus przewalskii Maxim. These trees are known to be drought-tolerant, resistant to extreme cold, and an effective tool for sand stabilisation – in other words, perfect for greening the plateau.

Following this discovery, the team set out in search of the poplar trees, and collected the seedlings, which then required multiple rounds of breeding and regional experiments back at the centre.

“It takes at least eight years if everything goes smoothly, and another five years are needed to carry out sexual propagation,” Zhang said.

By 2017, Zhang and her team had successfully bred improved varieties of Populus przewalskii Maxim that boasted straight trunks and high growth levels. They had also developed a breeding method capable of shortening the breeding cycle to between three and five years.

Since then, Zhang’s team has established three tree seedling demonstration bases, a total seedling production scale of 57.3 hectares, and annual poplar tree seedling production of more than one million, which have been successfully planted throughout the province.

Source: English.news.cn

Posted Date: April 10, 2023

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