To increase the number of registered seed stands for the species. This will improve the supply of seed from stands of better than average quality and give rapid results. Good progress has been made since 2003 and there are now 7 registered in Britain and 3 in Ireland.
Concurrent with the search for seed stands the group set about the selection of some 200 plus trees across Britain and Ireland for propagation purposes. The basis for selection centered on factors that most affect the timber value of the species. Although straightness was considered an important criterion by the market, a clean stem with no defects is more important. Currently minimum lengths acceptable on timber markets are 2m, but in the future this may change. A further consideration is timber degrade by "green line" or "green ring". It is thought this is due to damage to tissues as a result of early flushing. If this is the case then the timing of flushing is critical. Provisionally it is intended that selection start with late flushing trees, as it is an easy parameter to observe.
The location of each of the plus trees is now entered on the main Future Trees Trust database. Work is in progress on the collection of scion material from the plus trees for propagation. This will enable conservation collections of the material to be established for further breeding work (both breeding seed orchards and seedling seed orchards) at number of sites in both Britain and Ireland.
To date, just over 200 plus trees have been identified. 42 different plus trees have been grafted with 35 of these being successfully grafted and conserved. In Ireland a total of 720 trees have been grafted with a success rate of 39%. In the UK a further 12 plus trees have been grafted.
As part of the sycamore group business plan, Gerry Douglas, Chairman of the sycamore group, recently made a visit to Dr. Helmut Grotehusmann in Germany to visit and learn practical and scientific aspects of seed orchards and tree seed processing which would help to improve the supply of seed from trees of better quality in the UK and Ireland. Read Gerry's report on his visit here:
Little work has been undertaken in the UK or Ireland towards improving sycamore. In the UK five provenance trials testing local and continental European origins showed that there was little difference in growth between the local and continental origins. This has encouraged the selection of superior trees or stands to be focused on local populations. Over the last two years the trials have been re-measured and more up to date results will guide the groups work.