We don't buy trees from the JDI Nursery in Sussex, nor do we work on any planting projects with Irving. However, the JDI Silviculture division operates near our headquarters in southeastern New Brunswick, and they specifically invited us to tour their very impressive facilities. The Sussex nursery has the capacity to produce up to four million seedlings each year, but it also has associated facilities such as the Parkindale Seed Orchard and an incredible high-tech research lab at the Maritime Innovation facility. They were willing to let us share some of the photos from our tour.
The greenhouses were between crops when we visited, but here are some photos showing some of the facilities associated with JDI Sussex.
The Parkingdale seed orchard supplies seed from seven types of conifers: white spruce, red spruce, black spruce, norway spruce, eastern white pine, Jack pine, and tamarack (eastern larch).
Here's a close-up of one of the first-generation Jack pine seed trees.
This sign shows the layout of the orchard.
Here's a close-up of one of the first-generation white spruce seed trees.
A wider view of some of the first-generation Jack pines.
An open seed cone from an eastern white pine tree.
Sorted seeds. We did a tour of their seed sorting facility. The amount of work that goes into drying, cleaning, and sorting the seed is just incredible. However, once the seed is properly processed, it can be stored in freezers and remain viable for decades.
Next, we went to the Maritime Innovation research lab. This is one of only three such advanced labs in the entire world (links to some articles at the bottom of this page). There were a number of areas that we weren't allowed to take photos, because we saw some incredible high-tech proprietary technology, but we appreciate that the staff allowed us to take photos of some of the work that they were doing.
This vat is one of several deep-freeze vats, which allows genetic material (seed families) to be stored safely for decades. This freezer contains collections of seed archives. Of course, it's not possible to just reach in and grab some. Thanks to the liquid nitrogen, the temperature is maintained at -196 degrees Celsius (-230 degrees Fahrenheit). If you tried to reach in there, your hand would be completely frostbitten in a few seconds.
Dishes containing somatic embryos. The lab uses zygotic embroyos at the start (seed-based) and processes them using a process called somatic embryogenesis, where normal somatic cells are able to develop into embryos that can then develop into seedlings. For anyone who is concerned about genetic manipulation, that doesn't happen. The DNA of the trees is not touched. This process is simply a high-tech version of sorting out seeds to obtain progeny from the healthiest-looking seed trees.
Different growth mediums have been used to test the best ways to support embryo growth, including water-based and agar solutions (which I think have a red algae or seaweed base).
The sorting rooms have thousands of dishes full of embryos, which are eventually transferred into trays (one at a time) before being taken to the growing room.
The growing room. No, there's nothing wrong with this photo. The LED lighting in the room only has red and blue source wavelengths (no green or other frequencies), so it's hard to take a conventional photo. I believe that the trays of embryos spend approximately 10-14 days growing in this room.
A tray of embryos that has grown into young plants. These very young conifers can then be transplanted (by hand) into trays of plugs, to start the next step of their journey in the greenhouse areas.
The lab also grows endophytes, a process outlined in this poster. Endophytes are naturally growing organisms that are symbotic with the conifers. They can be bacteria or fungi, but regardless of which they are, they live within the plant/tree for the entire life of the tree, in a symbiotic relationship that doesn't damage the tree. They obtain certain resources from the tree which supports their own life cycle, and in return, they produce various types of chemicals within the tree that help the tree ward off attacks by insects or other pests. This whole process occurs naturally, which is great because it reduces the use of pesticides or other chemicals, and keeps the trees much healthier than they would be without the presence of the endophytes.
Endophytes are grown in this room for a few weeks each year, then sprayed on the young seedlings as a natural biological alternative to certain chemical applications.
Here's a dish containing some endophytes which are especially beneficial to eastern white pine trees, helping to prevent them from being as susceptible to diseases such as white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola).
And here are links to a couple of articles if you'd like to learn more about the JDI Sussex nursery and their associated facilities:
We'd like to thank Irving for inviting us to tour their facilities, and for allowing us to share part of the story here.
We encourage you to visit our 2023 Progress page next, to see what we're currently working on!