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Is ‘up’ the new way forward? Trees grown six times faster

In the first UK trials of their kind, trees are being grown to a height of 40 to 50 centimetres in just 90 days.

Whenever Norwegian conifers such as Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, Scots pine, rowan, hazel, oak, alder and birch are mentioned, what images are conjured up in your mind? Epic green landscapes comprising rolling woodlands? Or a high-tech, cube-shaped, vertical growing structure containing stack upon stack of plants?

Well, a cube-shaped building at the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie in Scotland is where Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is planning to plant tens of millions of new trees. This high-tech vertical structure is a large hydroponic unit with the ability to produce saplings at a rate six times faster than when grown naturally.

In the first UK trials of their kind, trees are being grown to a height of 40 to 50 centimetres in just 90 days – a height FLS claims would take up to 18 months to achieve without the support of the hydroponic system.

The vertical farming system uses fewer seeds and less water. The trees will be grown for one to two years, before being transferred and planted in their permanent forest homes.

“A vertical farming system for growing trees could allow us to grow many more trees, faster, more efficiently, and with far less water,” said Kenny Hay, Tree Nursery and Seed Resource Manager with Forestry and Land Scotland.

“Planting more trees – both for timber and biodiversity benefits – is vital if we are to tackle the twin crises of climate and biodiversity [threats].”

Vertical growing could represent the future of forest growing. Growing plants indoors in layers, using LED lighting and controlled growing and nutrition systems, is already happening throughout the world. For instance, Dubai has the ‘world’s largest’ vertical farm, and this kind of planting has also made it as far as regional Australia, according to reports from ABC News.

Posted Date: December 7, 2022

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