Reforestation is good! But we’re running out of seeds

Swift says he has a collection area that hasn’t produced a bountiful harvest for nine years. “There is no doubt in my mind” that this is the result of climate change, he said. Overall, harvests are smaller and more sporadic than they were a few decades ago. “If this continues, I really don’t know what the nurseries will do for the seeds in 10, 20 or 50 years,” he says.

Seed orchards (trees managed with the intention of harvesting seeds) are an emergency plan against declining wild harvest yields. But neither have they escaped climate change. Last year’s wildfires destroyed a sugar pine seed orchard in the Klamath National Forest and another on Oregon Bureau of Land Management land. It was a devastating blow, as orchards take a long time to settle, as trees need time to mature.

After collection, the the seeds are sent to nurseries, where they are grown as seedlings for planting. The study authors interviewed more than 120 nurserymen about the barriers to scaling up their operations to meet reforestation needs. These issues range from spacing to personnel issues.

“We’re out of greenhouse space,” Brian Morris, program director at Webster Forest Nursery in Washington, told WIRED. “We actually have to work with outside producers to meet our demand. So over the last few years we have been operating at maximum capacity.

Finding enough labor has already been a struggle for nurseries. According to Morris, his nursery hires its in-house staff and seasonal farm labor contracts, and those costs are increasing every year. Additionally, the study noted that immigration issues like visa restrictions often prevent migrant workers from entering the United States. For this reason, nurserymen and reforestation project managers often do not know how many workers will be available and whether their core team will be able to return. “Every year when we do these contracts and go through the hiring process, it’s a very stressful time,” Morris says. “We don’t know what we’re going to get each year.”

Last summer, Rep. Bruce Westerman, a Republican from Arkansas, wrote in The hill that without the H-2B visa exemptions, by 2020 “1.6 million acres of forest land would not be planted and nearly 1.12 billion seedlings would die.”

Nurseries, too, are grappling with the problem of retirement. Many long-time producers left the company with few young people behind them. There are only three forest nursery training programs in the entire United States, and increasing urbanization has made rural nursery jobs less desirable. In fact, the program manager at Webster retired earlier this year; Morris fills the role on an interim basis.

Fargione says if nurserymen want to expand their infrastructure and hire more workers, they’ll need a guarantee from the government or other big buyers that the investment will pay off. “They will need to add more land to cultivate, and that will require long-term guarantees for them regarding demand,” Fargione said. “So things like long term contracts or low cost loans or repayable loans to encourage them to make those investments.”

Morris wants more details. Before expanding the business, he wants to know which tree species the reforestation efforts will focus on next. Does this tree grow best in the ground or in a greenhouse? And what type of greenhouse? “There are a lot of questions,” he says. “Trees are more than just trees. There is a lot to be done in choosing the right infrastructure for the crop you are going to grow.

Once the seedlings are cultivated, the steep slopes and the risk of fire make replanting forest land extremely expensive. For example, according to the National Forest Foundation, a single 8,000 tree planting project in California cost $ 300,000 just to prepare the site.

About Georgia Duvall

Check Also

House panel leader vows to end “racial discrimination” at USDA

Sherrod said that despite the findings of discrimination in the Pigford case, there is no …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.