The Biggest Trends Influencing Tree Procurement Today

Hillier Trees is a sponsor of the 2017 National Tree Officers Conference (NTOC). Hillier Trees Logo

While some trends in tree procurement almost never change – like sourcing the right tree varieties at a fair price – in recent years, a number of political and environmental concerns have become much more significant as part of procurement decisions.

1. Responsible Procurement

In a world of globalised trade, awareness around the threat of importing pests and diseases is growing ever higher. We have noticed that responsible buying and ensuring safe provenance of trees are increasingly becoming the most important procurement discussion points.

At Hillier, we grow our own stock across 750 acres of land in Hampshire, which means minimal risk of imported pests and diseases. As such, we have experienced increasing interest in our nursery production systems, with many requests to visit our operations.

Straight Trees

One year after budding. Trees being trained for a straight stem

2. Brexit-based uncertainty

The ongoing political uncertainty surrounding Brexit is affecting the market in a variety of ways. Financially, exchange rates continue to fluctuate and the British Pound weaken, which could impact our trade relationships with European nurseries.

There may also be positive outcomes from this uncertainty, tied again to responsible procurement. A number of recent imported diseases, including OPM, Chalara, Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner and Massaria, have proved the threat is very real.  The question remains whether there is a political will to put in place the existing mechanisms that could potentially nullify the risk of disease.

There exists on the horizon the possibility of even more damaging overseas pest and disease introductions in the form of Asian Longhorn Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, Ceratosystis platani and Xylella.  As a result, Defra and APHA are currently reviewing their UK plant and tree biosecurity strategy.  Any firm actions resulting from this would be very welcome – as it stands, authorities are relatively powerless to impose effective restrictions.

As an indication of how serious the implications of these diseases could be, should Xylella, for example, enter the country, any horticultural business within 6 miles of an outbreak will be effectively shut down for 5 years.  This explains why growers are demanding more robust legislative measures – such as total bans on at-risk genus.

Tree Inspection

Trees are regularly inspected for quality. These trees have reached the semi-mature stage and are about 12 years old.

3. Tree Miles

There is growing awareness around ‘Tree Miles’ calculations in procurement – i.e. the environmental cost of transporting plants from one part of the world to another. This is particularly true among organisations with high environmental standards, including the Public Sector, major charitable bodies and national developers. Transporting trees from overseas to the UK costs the planet significant, unnecessary CO2 emissions each year, compared to a local supplier.

Perhaps the UK tree industry could become truly biosecure and self-sufficient, by entirely growing its own trees!

Prunus Ichiyo

Prunus Ichiyo parasol shape

4. Bare-root and Container Trees

One of the final major trends we are seeing is in the specification of trees themselves. We continue to see an increase in the popularity of both bare-root and container trees. At the same time, there is a slight decrease in demand for some root-ball root systems, like birch and oak, due to concerns about safe lifting among planting contractors.

Bare-root trees, ranging from 10-12cm girth to 16-18cm girth, represent value for money, have proven long-term root-establishment due to the exposed root-flare and an excellent establishment record. Requests for bare-root friendly trees, including cherries, limes, maples, crabs, rowans and thorns, are certainly growing.

Container trees continue to go from strength to strength due to their ease of handling, longer storage and the ability to plant all year round. They are a particularly popular choice by planting schemes that involve variable programmes.

For more information on market trends or to request a visit to our nurseries contact Hillier Trees.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Hillier Trees and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of Chartered Foresters. 

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