Perspectives on Risk: The Nursery

Hommel Matt


Perspectives on Risk: The Nursery

Ahead of his presentation at the Tree Health, Resilience and Sustainability Conference, Matt Hommel MICFor, Managing Director of Christie-Elite Nurseries, outlines the need for better market stability before tree health challenges can be addressed.


I believe the main challenge for nurseries in relation to tree health is business resilience; finding an effective way to balance production lead-time against future risk. As a grower we collect and sow seeds years in advance of the finished tree being sold.

Growing a plant is an investment, particularly in the case of specialist material of local seed origin, or in years where seed is scarce. In order to invest, a nursery must be sufficiently assured that a market will exist for the plant at the time it becomes ready for sale. In the forestry sector, markets are heavily influenced by grant. Without stability in the funding system the grants fluctuate to such an extent that the industry cannot forward plan. Just look at the situation in Wales where it has just been announced that rural development grants will stop for 12 months or more.

This was recently announced but the trees to supply forestry during the grant period were sown up to three years ago. 12 months in the life of a forest is nothing, so who will plant trees during this unsupported period? Nurseries cannot take the risk of increasing production without forward planning, while growing conservatively means that when demand increases, suddenly plants are not available. The vacuum created has been (and will continue to be) filled by imported material even though we know that plants from outside the UK naturally pose a greater risk to biosecurity.

Long term stability in the marketplace must exist before growers can confidently produce to the levels which meet the UK’s requirement. In my opinion this is the most important factor in relation to nurseries and tree health.

Matt Hommel MICFor will speak at the forthcoming 2015 ICF National Conference: Tree Health, Resilience and Sustainability. He will present The Nursery Perpective as part of the Day 1 Session 3 programme, Perspectives on Risk. For full programme and booking details, visit

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