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New technology developed within the Pre-Forest project.

Pre-Forest: a robot for pre-cultivation of high quality tree planting stock, pesticides-free and with recycling of water and fertilisers

The robot, a very innovative system for nursery production, represents the core objective of the project “A new European technology for cost efficient and environmental friendly production of pre-cultivated forest regeneration materials”, acronym Pre-Forest, funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme on Research, Technological Development and Demonstration, Specific Research Projects for SMEs, Co-operative Research (CRAFT). Vivai Torsanlorenzo is coordinator of the project. Other enterprise partners of Pre-Forest are QS Odlingssystem (Sweden), Dytikomakedonika Fytoria (Greece), and—as research partners—Università della Tuscia (Italy), Dalarna University (Sweden), National Agricultural Research Foundation and Forest Research Institute (Greece). Pre-Forest addresses crucial environmental in Europe and the rest of the world today. That is how to reduce green-house gas emissions and subsequent problems with global warming, how to lower the oil consumption and the possibility to expand the production of biomass for energy as a substitution for fossil fuels and how to reduce the use of chemicals and pesticides negatively affecting water and soil quality The new technology developed within the Pre-Forest project for production of various forest regeneration materials from seed, cuttings or tissue culture can be expected to have a significant potential in the future. The technology is based on a short pre-cultivation period of forest seedlings in mini-plugs at densities up to 3500 seedlings/m² followed by mechanical transplanting to any optional container system or directly to open land at the nursery. In the production of forest regeneration materials based on seeds the initial growth period up to about 5 weeks is of decisive importance for the amount of seedlings developed including the quality of the seedlings and of course, based on this, also the final economic result. The possibility to optimize growing conditions during this initial growth period can be poor in many forest nurseries. If so, the amount of seedlings produced will be low and there will be substantial differences in height between seedlings due to uneven germination. The final result will then be a crop with few seedlings that will meet the required standards after grading. Also many forest nurseries are burdened with environmental problems as leakage of nutrients and pesticides to the soil. The compact multiple-floor mobile unit for pre-cultivation developed within the Pre-Forest project, and shown here, can easily be regulated by a computerised control and monitoring system for optimal germination and cultivation environment for various forest species during the initial growth period. In the closed production system, not affected by outdoor climate, no pesticides will be used and fertilizers recycled. Besides improved germination for more seedlings and better quality out of every crop the new technology will therefore also support EU forest policy aimed at further developing the principles of sustainable forest management. The pre-cultivation has also been adapted to a standard size container that easily can be transported by truck, railway or boat to any location where there is a need for production of different kinds of forest regeneration materials. The production unit can be used for a number of different purposes, including: · commercial production of different crops · production of endangered species with a very low germination rate, or · as a scientific tool for different kind of research. Also the environmentally friendly production with no pesticides used and re-circulation of water and nutrients, making water consumption low, will add to the benefits of the new technology compared to state-of-the-art in production of forest seedlings. In addition, the rapidly growing interest all over the world regarding vegetative propagation using the method of somatic embryogenesis for commercial cultivation of many species will increase the interest for the pre-cultivation unit, since its optimal and very clean growing environment, which is crucial for this type of cultivation. Finally, the new technology developed within the Pre-Forest project will also be of interest for a more cost efficient and environmental friendly production of forest regeneration materials when considering the world wide interest for using fibres from forest crops to produce fuel for vehicles and aeroplanes as an alternative to fuel based on oil. The display of the robot and the presentation of the first results of Pre-Forest will take place in occasion of the Vivai Torsanlorenzo International Prize, designed to highlight completed landscape projects and to promote the quality of forest and urban green spaces. The Prize, this year at its VI edition, has been approved by the world’s most relevant conservation and landscape associations (including the International Union of Architects (UIA); the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA); the European Foundation for Landscape Architecture (EFLA),the European Federation for Landscape Architecture (FEAP)) and institutions like UNESCO, Italy’s government, European Commission, etc.

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