Elite for forests of the future

Belarus is among Europe’s leading forest states, with woodlands occupying around 40 percent of its territory. In fact, a third of these are planted by human hand.

By Mikhail Serovsky

Many of us might think that our forests are grown from seedlings. However, forestry workers know well that huge pines and firtrees are grown from small seeds. Their quality directly influences the potential of future forests. Accordingly, each winter, around ten tonnes of coniferous seeds are gathered. The number might seem small but each cone contains no more than 1.5 percent of seeds.

Naturally, some further preparation is needed for around 300 tonnes of cones. In the past, dry cones were placed into special stoves — cone dryers — to allow them to ‘open’ their petals. Later, seeds were shaken out by an electric or hand-driven engine before being cleaned. Today’s technologies make the job easier of course.

At the end of 2011, a new forestry-seeding centre was launched at Shchuchin Forestry — becoming the largest project to be realised by the forestry as part of the State Programme for Belarus’ Innovative Development. Only a small number of employees are needed. They remove cones from special bags, placing them into containers and sending them down a sorting line. Those not meeting quality requirements are thrown away, while the best are sent to dry and centrifugal forces used to extract seeds.

The spent cones are then sent to boilers as fuel, while the seeds are dampened and dried in turn, with compressed air. Double sorting follows, with computer controlled air flow allowing weak seeds to be blown away. Only the healthiest and fullest remain, sieved by size. Seeds can then be refrigerated, lasting up to ten years without their germinating capacity being affected.

All these high-tech procedures are organised at the new forestry-seeding centre. According to Deputy Prime Minister Valery Ivanov, the facility cost around $1m. “The construction and launch of this new facility will bring our forestry selection branch in the Grodno Region to a whole new level, meeting global standards for quality,” he asserts.

Coniferous seeds — extracted with the help of the latest equipment — boast at least 95 percent germinating capacity. Importantly, their careful selection ensures that the forests of the future are more disease resistant, quick growing and strong. “Global experience and the history of our domestic forestry convinces us that the structure of our forestries is improving, while productivity and disease resistance are being maintained — primarily through genetic selection,” stresses the Forestry Minister, Mikhail Amelyanovich.

Numerous scientific experiments in the field of forestry genetics, selection and seed preparation have proven that trees which have grown in the same location for many years tend to develop resistance to disease and other unfavourable factors. Accordingly, it has been a true necessity to launch the forestry-seeding centre in the Grodno Region. “Similar centres have operated within the forestry system previously: at the Vitebsk Region’s Glubokoe ExperimentalForestry, at Ivatsevichi Forestry (in the Brest Region), at Gorki Forestry (in the Mogilev Region) and at the Republican Forestry Selection-Seeding Centre (near Minsk),” Mr. Amelyanovich tells us. He continues, “The launch of the Shchuchin facility allows us to completely settle all issues regarding seed processing (covering all Belarusian regions). Moreover, we have the chance to process the necessary quantity of elite seeds, which are partially exported.”

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