Sep 28, 2022

Why is there a shortage of oak seedlings?

A poor acorn harvest and strong demand driven by the government stimulus plan has made it difficult to supply oak trees.

Why is there a shortage of oak seedlings?

We want to plant 62,000 sessile oaks in our Trinité forest in 2023. However, suppliers are currently unable to provide the seedlings due to a country-wide shortage in France. Though there is good news in Langonnet, where we are guaranteed to plant 5000 sessile oaks this winter, in this post we look at why supply is so difficult at the moment.

How do you get tree saplings?

Before we explain, it’s worth noting how trees and forests get planted. Here at EcoTree, we get to work with partners – both companies and individuals – that allow us to plant young trees and create new forests. It’s what we do and our forestry team are experts in the field.

But the truth is, it takes an entire industry working smoothly to plant trees. Our foresters set up a management plan or silvicultural itinerary that complies with regulations around species and biodiversity for the region. The order is then placed with local nurseries that have grown the necessary seedlings. 

Crucially, the origin of those seedlings is traced and cannot be harvested anywhere else. That’s because they are grown to meet the needs of the region’s specific requirements for soil, climate, diseases and invasive exotic species. In short, it means we are reliant on these seeds growing successfully.

Where are all the acorns?

Here’s the reality – the acorn harvest in 2021 was poor and that has affected the trees that we would typically be planting now. According to Gilles Bauchery, nurseryman in the Centre-Val-de-Loire and president of the union of forest nurseries, the harvest only met 10 to 15% of demand. 

That demand was particularly strong following the French government’s announcement of its forest recovery plan (French). This intervention came during the acorn harvest in 2020 and Bauchery believes that by then, it was too late to significantly increase the number of seeds sown that year.

Vianney de la Brosse, chief forester of EcoTree in Brittany explains some of the numbers behind the shortage: “In September 2021, when I placed an order for the oak trees that we had to plant at the end of winter 2022/2023, I was told that only 5,000 plants could be delivered to me out of the 67,000 that I requested for plantations planned in Trinité-Langonnet. I quickly realised that we were all in the same boat – the shortage affects all of France.” 

With climate change providing a challenging backdrop to these political changes, the oak seedling shortage is indeed a nationwide problem. A number of factors have combined to create a situation that is difficult for the entire industry. 

Our little oaks should be back soon

As mentioned above, the good news for EcoTree is that we are guaranteed to plant 5000 sessile oaks this winter in Langonnet. And we are confident that before long, we will be able to source enough for Trinité forest too. As with all things in nature, it’s about adapting.

In the meantime, you can find out more about EcoTree and our approach to sustainable forest management on our website.