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Could vertical farms help out with the tree planting problem?

Alarmingly, we are way off-track when it comes to meeting our tree-planting ambitions. Although the UK Government aims to plant 30,000 hectares of trees annually from 2025 onwards, the latest figures show that it is falling extremely short. Last year, tree planting rates in the UK fell to their lowest levels for five years. Just under 13,000 hectares of trees were created in the 12 months leading up to March 2023 – not much more than a third of the Government's annual goal from 2025 onwards.

To close the tree planting gap, we need to face three key barriers. First, we have a shortage of seeds. Seed collection is a small-scale industry and climate change is making it harder. Years of drought can halt a tree's energy-intensive seed production. Warmer weather causes an increase in the bugs that eat up surviving seeds, while forest fires reduce the number of trees from which to collect seeds.

Secondly, the available seeds are not always the right ones. For example, oak seedlings imported into the UK from Spain are not suitable for our climate. Consequently, they tend to have low germination rates or their saplings die in polytunnels or when they are transplanted to their final site.

Finally, the ongoing soil crisis means that the soil in which saplings are planted is often not fertile enough. Healthy soil serves as the foundation for woodlands, supporting not just the trees but also the fungi and microorganisms they need to thrive.

Considering this trio of challenges, it's almost impossible to see how we can accelerate tree planting to the necessary levels if we carry on as we are. We need to come at the problem differently. But we don't have the time or the budget for years of research and development to devise brand-new technology. What we need to do is make use of existing tech.

Read the entire article at EDIE

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