Direct seeding of new broadleaved woodlands

Direct seeded predominantly 'W8' native woodland mix - oak, ash, cherry, hazel, hawthorn, field maple, plus sweet chestnut and sycamore - after four growing seasons, 2 m pole in foreground. Shows variation in structure and naturally occurring open space, as advocated for new native woodlands.
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Direct seeding is the process of sowing tree seed in its final growing position rather than transplanting nursery-grown stock to the site. Early research into direct seeding showed that depredation of seed by rodents and birds and variable seed viability often resulted in low germination rates. Seedlings that do germinate face competition from fast-growing weed species colonising the open site, which can reduce growth rates and survival significantly.

Weeds competing with a direct sown birch seedling

However, for certain species and site types, direct seeding offers a potential means of creating new broadleaved woodlands with better quality timber, rapid growth rates and a more natural appearance. The technique also has great potential for creating large woodlands linking existing areas of ancient semi natural woodland. Successful establishment can be achieved at a lower cost and reduced herbicide input than conventional methods, by making use of farm-scale techniques and machinery.

Successful application of the technique is currently confined to a range of some broadleaved species for new woodland creation, but research into its potential for restoration of plantations on ancient woodland sites, and for low cost creation of native woodland habitats on felled upland plantation sites, is taking place.

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