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Partners Sought for the Commercial Production of Birch and Alder at the Qualified Level

Teagasc, in association with university partners UCD and UCC and supported through funding by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, have reached a stage in their birch and alder improvement programme, where a commercial partner is required for market development.

Teagasc is therefore seeking to select a commercial partner for the production, marketing and sales of the improved birch and alder material through a commercial arrangement. Any nursery or party interested in developing such an arrangement should contact Emer Eagle at Teagasc (091-845213 or emer.eagle@teagasc.ie) before Friday, 18 July 2014.

Dr Ellen O’Connor, Forestry Researcher with Teagasc has overseen this project since 2004. She provided some background to this important project: “The long-term research objective has been the development of a sustainable supply of improved, adapted and healthy seed of birch and alder within the framework of the EU Forest Reproductive Material (FRM) regulations. Parent material, to provide improved planting stock of alder and birch for use in afforestation and reforestation, was developed within this programme and is now available for commercial development. The upscale of seed production to meet national annual requirements will involve the set-up of an indoor seed orchard.”

She added: “This material is based on a classical approach to tree breeding and has been registered as Qualified. That means two steps up from the basic Source-Identified material currently used. A research-based indoor birch seed orchard has been in operation for five years, adapting the techniques first developed in Finland.”

Oliver Sheridan, who also works on this research project with Teagasc has operated the seed orchard and underlined the importance of building up expertise: “It is important to build up expertise in managing an indoor seed orchard as it requires constant monitoring due to changing growth conditions. Through a formal process, this important resource and associated know-how will be made available to selected party/parties to produce and market improved planting material that can be registered at theQualified level.

Dr O’Connor finished by saying: “Why would anyone use unimproved seed of poorer quality when this improved material will become available? Seed orchard development, with close association to the breeding programme, will ensure a continued seed supply of the highest genetic value.”

Further details on this important research programme can be found at: http://www.teagasc.ie/forestry/research/projects/birch_improvement.asp.