Maelor Forest Nurseries is the largest commercial tree nursery in the UK – selling approximately 35 million trees a year from its 200 hectare site in Wrexham on the Welsh Borders and 70 hectare site based in Forres, Scotland.
Maelor is part of the BSW Group, which is the largest sawmilling and forestry business in the UK and a member of Binderholz. Binderholz is a significant global sawmiller and producer of value added products. The business operates in Austria, Germany, Finland and the USA.
Maelor Forest Nurseries employs around 80 staff, plus agency workers, and operates year round to ensure the trees grown receive continuous care. It invests a significant percentage of profits into research and around 10% of staff are from scientific backgrounds with degrees in plant sciences.
Running this type of nursery is very different from others, as science and research is at the heart of the operation. Every tree that leaves the site must be as healthy and strong as it can be so it has the optimum chance of surviving the challenges nature will throw at it.
Pests and Diseases
Most people would presume growing trees, planting them, and then harvesting is straight forward, but constant battles against pests and disease, the need to grow the best quality timber and the changing climate means that the nursery has to endeavour to be one step ahead of nature’s challenges at all times.
Maelor specialises in supplying home-grown trees with the very best genetics and are especially renowned for their full-sibling spruce – the result of over 60 years of tree breeding to improve growth, resilience and timber quality.
Trees of the Future
Maelor Forest Nurseries is a founder member of the Conifer Breeding Co-Operative. The group was founded to preserve genetic resources from ‘plus’ trees selected as part of the national tree breeding programme.
We also support the Future Trees Trust, a charity focused on researching and promoting improved broadleaf trees; Maelor has established silver birch and sycamore seed orchards using material identified by the Future Trees Trust.
Maelor is continually learning and adapting. Work is focused on alternative species and producing hybrids that can cope with drier climates for areas of the UK where rainfall is reducing.
With the effects of climate change becoming more evident, forestry needs to adapt, and Maelor has learned the importance of looking ahead. It’s applied science – creating the link between research and getting something into the field.
This can mean taking valuable genetic sources and multiplying them, which is a technique that could be applied to any limited material.
Maelor Forest Nurseries only sells trees that are grown on its site throughout their life, and bio-security is a top priority for the company.
For many years, plant buyers have not asked enough questions regarding the source of the nursery stock they are planting. Much of the stock used to plant native woodlands has come from sources outside the UK, with their import significantly increasing the risk of new pests and diseases being introduced to the UK.
However, as the UK’s climate alters, the trees that have adapted well to previous weather patterns may begin to struggle.
Woodland management approaches are altering; creating productive woodlands for the future will be best achieved by planting a carefully considered variety of species and provenances.
This has led to much debate and consultation regarding the sourcing of planting stock, and research is currently underway regarding this topic. The overriding conclusion seems to be that we must expect more frequent and more extreme weather events.
Maelor has its own state-of-the-art laboratory which was established with the help of world-renowned tissue culturist and tree breeding expert Dr David Thompson, with the aim of producing thousands of trees from a single embryo/seed using a process called somatic embryogenesis or SE.
As well as the SE facility, Maelor has an FC certified Seed Testing Facility for testing purity, viability and germination of seeds. The company is an Associate Member of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA).
Maelor continues to invest in the future. In order to be prepared for the significant future demand for high quality home-grown trees, Maelor has invested £4 million in a new miniplug production facility to secure not only a continuous and steady supply of tree stocks but also improve their quality and resilience to the effects of climate change.