Growing trees is not as instant as 3D printing

“We, the tree growers from Italy, believe that the United Nations Global Impact and the EU’s Green Deal uniquely position us to encourage businesses worldwide to create an economic, social and environmental framework that promotes a global economy that is healthy, sustainable and inclusive.

Doing business following the principles of corporate social responsibility in human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption has always been core throughout our industry’s long history. And in the years to come, we will further align our practices.

Meanwhile, ten mayors of major European cities have declared they will plant a minimum of three million trees by 2030. Considering the number of trees needed and the short time frame, these heads of city governments have taken up a significant challenge. We are ready to help them achieve their goals but to do so, we are demanding more clarity from the political arena and the world of landscape architects.

In European tree production, there is a considerable lack of product, variety and size. We are tapping in our financial reserves and expertise to fill the production gap emerging in the last ten years.

The reality is that many small propagation nurseries specialing in grafts and seedling -the lifeblood of our industry- have disappeared.

One should bear in mind that starting with a three-year-old tree liner, the production cycle for city trees is at least five years. Without change tree nurseries will not be able to meet the skyrocketing demand for trees.

City councils, governments and politicians should stop thinking growing trees is as instant as 3D printing. So, before we start to write our tender letters, I urge all stakeholders within our industry to come up with a realistic, concrete production planning to ensure we have sufficient starting material, labour and resources to produce trees to schedule.

Ultimately it is in the interest of the entire tree industry that the trees and shrubs – which by the way we no longer call ‘ornamentals’ but ‘functionals’ – meet all the criteria on quality, quantity and size. If not, we risk making the same error once again. Poor support and understanding of European tree production, ill advice on suitable varieties for urban green spaces, means that we undermine the green city and its environmental, socio-economic and health benefits.

What to do? Firstly we should set up an efficient nursery plan to help make current and future urban projects successful. People must plan and coordinate with in-depth knowledge of the tree market and contractors and landscapers who can assess product quality, manage product volumes and know exactly what kind of variety and product specifications to include.

Moreover, these people must set the right prices to ultimately lead to the correct balance between cost/benefit and happy green loving citizens.
What’s more, we need to engage and hire a workforce that will be looking for jobs after this pandemic, by giving them a safe and pleasing working environment and healthy job outdoors.

While we also should continue to educate citizens about the social and economic benefits of urban green areas and invest in capacity building within our sector.
These industry considerations are the only way to be sure of meeting the challenge that lies ahead.”

About the author

Maurizio Lapponi is a tree grower from Mantova, Italy and previously served as President of the European Nurserystock Association (ENA).

WATCH-ON-DEMAND Dr Andrew Hirons, a Senior Lecturer in Arboriculture and Urban Forestry at University Centre Myerscough, spoke at the AIPH 2021 Green City Conference, about the Science of Tree Selection.

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