Contributor: Paul Schroeder, Proseed NZ Ltd
Work as part of the MPI One Billion Trees Partnership Project to propagate clonal XyloGene planting stock in a commercial quantity has continued at Proseed. Despite introduction of a new, improved set of clones for propagation in the second year of a three-year programme, Covid lockdown from March through May 2020 and budgetary constraints frustrating plans to set up facilities needed, around 15,000 rooted cuttings have been produced for planting. That is a 60-fold increase of original stock. Although production is less than targeted, improvement in capability has been significant.
This pioneering project has required considerable trial and fine tuning: from managing stool beds, to collection, preparation and setting of cuttings, maintenance of growing environments, choosing growing systems and developing growing schedules.
While most stools were grown on in planter bags, gulley and growbag hydroponic systems were also trialled. In future, a combination is likely to be used: growing stools through a series of planter bags and then boosting growth with fertigation. Using a custom nutrient solution with a higher ratio of trace elements, growth of stools in straight hydroponic systems was spectacular, but cutting material tended to be softer and less hardy.
Given low strike rates, maximizing propagation space productivity required cuttings to be set densely in small cells or plugs. The Jiffy and Ellepot systems being evaluated are completely biodegradable. Refinements such as improved temperature control, water pH correction, and shading have lifted average strike up to 74% which is a big improvement from earlier settings of around 30%. However, there is still large variation in strike rates between different clones, which does make inclusion of all desired germplasm into a clonal propagation programme difficult.
Treated with hormone and set under mist with bottom heat, cuttings begin rooting about one month after setting. Growing on requires them to be potted on from their inert setting media to a complete media in a larger container. ‘Forest Tubes’ were chosen since they are an established growing system that develops well-formed root systems, enables air pruning, and allows spacing in carry trays if required.