Harvest of forest seeds
Our LIFE project started in autumn 2011 and this coincided with an exceptional season for the production of fruit tree species targeted by our actions. Mountain ash, common spindle, hawthorn, medlar, wild apple and pear, to name a few, bent beneath the fruiting bodies produced in profusion. This opportunity was taken by the LIFE team to benefit from these seeds made available by Mother Nature.
In days the team harvested: 3 kg of fresh privet, 8 kg of blackthorn, 5 kg of alder buckthorn, 3 kg of Viburnum (wayfaring and snowball), 10 kg of fresh spindle , 391 kg of wild apples, 6 kg of medlars, 134 kg of wild pears, 11 kg of black elderberry, and other species such as hawthorn and purging buckthorn.
In addition to these fruit crops were added significant production of cuttings including 2000 eared willow cuttings, 1000 hazel cuttings collected through the participation of students from the Agronomic Institute of Ath.
A total of 610 kg of various fruits and 3000 cuttings have been harvested during the first months of the project.
After harvest, began the storage phase. The 'seed counter' of Marche-en-Famenne (http://environnement.wallonie.be/orvert/catalogue.html) offered a part of its facilities and, above all, the knowledge of its staff.
Seed extraction is a matter of patience. In a container, the fruit were gently food-crushed to release the seeds, then filling with water made the fleshes floating and the seeds sinking. Subsequently, successive phases of sieving and flotation allowed to collect most of the viable seeds. More resistant fruits such as sloes or medlars, are smashed by mean of a Karscher between two grids, the flesh is pulverized and only the seeds remain. These activities have resulted in collecting about 8 kg of seeds, partly made of 467 g of buckthorn, 3.5 kg of wild apple and 400 g of wild pear. These seeds will get an artificial dormancy breakage (imitation of the effects of winter) at the 'seed counter' to be sown in spring in newly created forest nurseries in Michamps, and Awenne and Bauffe. For instance, the dormancy of apple lasts about 3 months. The seeds are mixed with vermiculite, sprayed with water and stored at 3° C. After this treatment, they are ready to be sown, 1kg corresponds to 30,000 seeds, thus let's hope 30,000 seedlings of wild apple trees!
A part of the cuttings has already been installed in order to assess their resilience and their effect on restoring edges.
The next step will consist in growing the plants in nurseries.
Let's meet next time in spring for more information.