MILLIONS of new trees are expected to be grown each year near Whitchurch from the summer of 2022 after a £4 million investment into a 'miniplug' facility was announced on Monday.

Maelor Forest Nurseries Ltd, based in Ellesmere Road, between Bronington and Welshampton, has made the investment to secure a continuous and steady supply of tree stocks that are resilient to the effects of climate change.

Ben Goh, Maelor Forest Nurseries commercial manager, says the investment comes directly as a result of climate factors around the traditional spring growing season and says it will allow for more consist growth.

"It will allow us to extend what we seed but it won't be all year round," said Ben, who added that his company are recruiting forestry nursery workers.

"The darker part of the season won't be used but we expect there will be around 25 million trees a year grown at the facility.

"The mini plug facility will be used to grown them to about 10cm and then they will be taken out and planted in the nursery before going off to customers.

"The way the trees are normally grown is to be planted outside in rows but because we have inconsistent springs here – early warm springs or later spring freezes, the trees are vulnerable.

"This will be a way to ensure that the trees get more protection and grow consistently.

"It takes some of the seasonal work out of it and this is less labour intensive too, so it means staff can do more high-skilled work at the nursery.

“We have taken the step to invest £4 million in a miniplug production facility at the main production site with the aim of minimising these risks whilst simultaneously improving quality and increasing production capacity.”

Ben says the new facility consists of three elements: a seed sowing line, covered growing area, and outdoor hardening off space.

All three elements are connected by a roller bench system, significantly reducing manual handling of trays, where seeds will be sown directly into trays with the subsequent germination taking place in a controlled environment.

Maelor successfully conducted field trials which included auto-planting more than five million miniplugs between October 2020 and April 2021.

Ben added: "The scale of the facility is impressive and is part of the reshaping of Maelor Forest Nurseries the start of which was the opening of their new state-of-the-art research laboratory in 2020.

Work on the construction of the miniplug facility started last summer with a target completion date of spring 2022.

The first crops from the facility are expected to be dispatched to customers in winter 2023/24.