Manch is the location of one of three national oak trials put in place in 2006. The trials are funded by COFORD under the Forest R&D Programme 2000-2006 and have been developed by Woodstock Seeds in partnership with Coillte.
The purpose of the trials is to compare the growth rates and characteristics of different oaks with a view to selectively improving the Irish oak resource. The trials are long term – to gain meaningful comparative information requires up to one quarter of the rotation of the crop (120 years).
There are two main aspects to the trials:
1. Provenance Trial
The provenance trial is made up of seedlings from all of the Irish oak stands that were harvested in 2004 as well as four overseas sources.
The Irish provenances include:
- Registered Stands: Glengarriff Forest in Cork, Tullynally Estate in Westmeath, Stradbally Forest in Laois, Charleville and Rahin Forests in Offaly.
- Source Identified Stands: Ahil and Cool Mountain in Cork, Coolattin and Tomnafinnogue in Wicklow and St. John’s Wood in Roscommon.
- The foreign sources used for comparison include two from the Forest of Dean (one sessile and one pedunculate source), one German (Oster Kustenraum) and one Dutch (Nuenen Tested Seed Orchard).
- The foreign trees are 2 and 3-year undercut open grown and bareroot, while all of the Irish material is 1-year container-grown and comparatively smaller.
2. Progeny Trial
In an earlier broadleaf improvement programme (ÉCLAIR) that ran from 1991 to 1998, phenotypically superior individuals of a range of species were selected in stands around the country with the objective of providing the basis of a future improvement programme.
During the course of this work more than a hundred “plus trees” (based on the presence of superior growth rate and stem form) of oak were identified and established in grafted “gene banks”. In 2004 a number of these clones produced quantities of seed for the first time and these offspring are planted in the Progeny Plots.
The trial is made up of 70 plots, each with 25 trees planted on a 2m square grid. A labelled corner post marks the first tree in each plot and there are no gaps between plots. There are four plots of each provenance and a total of ten progeny plots.