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New glasshouse will help Moray tree nursery's ambitious seedling production plans


By David Porter

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A NEW glasshouse that’s almost as big as two football pitches and capable of producing up to 19 million trees a year for

Work will get underway in 2024 at Newton Nursery
Work will get underway in 2024 at Newton Nursery

A NEW glasshouse that’s almost as big as two football pitches and capable of producing up to 19 million trees a year for planting out into the forests of the future, will soon be built at a nursery near Elgin.

Forestry & Land Scotland’s (FLS) Newton Nursery is set for a major modernisation in 2024 that will see the nursery provide more trees to support Scotland’s ambitious tree planting targets while also providing FLS with greater self-sufficiency.

The new 1200m2 glasshouse near Elgin is a central part of the redevelopment of the facility that also includes new offices and a new distribution and operations centre.

Growing trees from seed inside the glasshouse that are currently grown outdoors in fields, will allow FLS to have much better control over the growing environment, meaning the seedlings are less vulnerable to damage from extreme weather events and competition from weeds. Trials indicate germination rates could be improved by 60 per cent, demonstrating a much more efficient use of valuable seeds.

Energy and resource efficiency is core to the redevelopment: boreholes will supply water to irrigate the seedlings so there will no new demand on the mains water system, and low energy use technologies have been incorporated into the building design, while solar panels will supplement electricity use.

The stock produced - mostly conifer species such as Lodge Pole Pine, Scots Pine, Sitka and Norway Spruce – is the backbone of Scotland’s forestry industry which adds £1 billion to the economy every year. These trees will be planted out into existing forests all over Scotland as older trees are felled and to create new forests of the future. The resulting wood products will help the UK reduce its reliance on imported timber, reducing pressure on vulnerable forests around the world.

Once the redevelopment is complete, Newton could have up to 25 million trees in any one year, growing on site. Some will be newly planted and others will be more than a year old and ready to send to forests around Scotland.

Speaking about the nursery’s expansion and the anniversary, Alan Duncan, FLS’s Head of Plant & Seed Supply, said:

“This modernisation will allow us to continue developing new techniques for growing, planting and harvesting trees for forests now and in the future, to increase woodland cover and to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

“Innovation and experimentation are part and parcel of the nursery’s planning for the forests of the future: we already invest significantly in research including work on vertical farming of tree seedlings; Silvibio, an organic seed coating which saves 50 litres of water per seed planted and Plant Tape which allows us plant up to 1 million tree seedlings in a single day.”

Last year Newton Nursery marked its 90th anniversary and this year FLS announced it would double in size, boosting overall capacity within Scotland’s tree nursery sector which is essential to delivering Scotland’s Climate Emergency response.

The redevelopment and modernisation – made possible with financial support from Scottish Government – represents the biggest, single infrastructure investment ever by FLS.

Morgan Sindall have been confirmed as the principal contractor to deliver the scheme, heading an integrated design team including Edinburgh based Oberlanders Architects.

The redevelopment will break ground in spring 2024, the first batch of seeds should be planted in early 2025.


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