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Giving young trees a head start

Lauren Glass explains the benefits of using cell-grown stock. 

Alba Trees are specialists in cellgrown plants, producing more than 18 million trees a year, a figure which is increasing rapidly.

Galbraith, one of our biggest clients, uses our cell grown stock for a number of projects from rewilding to afforestation. Cell grown stock has many benefits as the small individual containers they are grown in are specially designed to eliminate root-spiralling and offer substantial benefits to the establishment and growing on of the plants.

Our trees are grown in deep cell trays which can be safely graded and dispatched from the nursery all year round without damage to the roots. Cell-grown plants can be planted at any time of year – which is of particular benefit in summer and autumn before bareroot trees have gone dormant and can be lifted.

The high establishment percentage of cell grown trees means there are minimal stock losses and a reduced beat-up requirement. They are also easy to plant as ground cultivation is minimised. If planting is delayed by weather or other factors, cellgrown stock can be held for several weeks without problems provided the roots are kept moist.

Our cell-grown trees are sturdy and robust to withstand handling and transit, though they must be handled with a little care to ensure the root plugs stay intact. Keeping the stock sheltered before planting is crucial to prevent freezing or overheating, and trees should not be stored in the dark for long periods of time.

One of the main benefits of cellgrown stock is the lack of root disturbance unlike bare root trees which lose a proportion of root in the lifting process and will take time to recover. During planting some of the long straggly root systems will fall victim to a spade, and in warmer periods this can result in bare-root trees dying if they have not managed to grow back a sufficient root system.

By contrast, cell-grown trees have a robust root system contained within the plug, meaning they are much less prone to transplanting shock. As cell-grown trees can be supplied in a growing phase through spring, summer and autumn, there will be root activity within the plug which allows trees to get established before the onset of winter. 

Tree planting is currently at the forefront of government thinking and the Scottish Government continues to increase annual targets. The 2020/21 planting target has increased to 12,000 hectares, an increase of 800 hectares on 2019 figures. In 2019 84% of all new UK planting was inScotland.

Alba is working closely with the wider industry and the government to meet those targets. Cell-grown trees can often be produced more quickly than traditional bare-root growing, meaning we can bring more trees to market more quickly to match industry needs. 

Lauren Glass l E-Sales Manager at Alba Trees  l lg@albatrees.co.uk