The UK produces only 40% of the wood it consumes. Increasing pressure on land use means that simply planting more trees is only part of the solution. To meet more of the UK’s demand for timber, the key challenge is to find ways to make existing and future plantations more efficient and productive.
Selective breeding has increased Sitka spruce yields by 25% since 1970. However, traditional selection methods are slow; it takes 30 years to select genetically superior trees and then mass produce higher-yielding tree varieties for planting in the forest. New approaches are needed that will speed up this process.
At the same time, other new challenges are emerging. Climate change and pest species new to the UK both pose a potential threat to forestry, as they do to many other crops. The ability to more quickly select climatically future-proofed trees or trees tolerant of a particular pest or disease would further improve plantation efficiciencies.