RMK asks cone pickers to apply for jobs, few cones in forests this year

Seed collection at the RMK seed nursery.
Seed collection at the RMK seed nursery. Source: Jarek Jõepera

The announcement last week that the State Forest Management Center (RMK) was hiring cone pickers caused quite a stir. There were a lot of applicants, but there was nothing to harvest because cones are in short supply this year.

There were plans to go to the pine cone picking trail near Kilingi-Nõmme, on Thursday, but due to a lack of cones, it did not make sense to travel so far. Pickers in Ida-Viru County were also unable to work because the forest was buried in snow. There are also few traps in the area.

"We can't pick from anywhere; we can only pick from RMK logging areas and the cone must be closed, not loose, and at least 3 centimeters long. We are allotted the places in advance, where there is more than 50 percent pine woods," Hille Reinsalu, a nursery manager in Iisaku, said.

Reinsalu said that the forests are now soft and moist, making undergrowth harvesting more likely, while pine harvesting must be delayed until a drier period.

As there are no cones in the forest or among the saplings, so no significant harvest is possible, she added.

"Clearly, the cone harvest has been relatively weak over the past two years due to the excessive heat. We budgeted for 10,000 liters of cone in each nursery, but since this is not a right year, we will not have that much," she said.

Despite the fact that cones are in short supply, there are plenty of pickers, as RMK issued a call for them last week. RMK's Chief Seed Management Specialist Aivo Vares said that there are indeed more pickers now than work.

"I think there's quite a high probability because the year's stocking consists of the first half of the winter and then at the end of the year, November, December, we'll continue," he said.

There will be no harvest of spruce cones this year, as the beetle continues to wreak havoc on them for the umpteenth year.

"There is no use in harvesting them as all of the seeds have already been eaten. You can tell from the way the cones have opened that they are partially decaying and the piles of pest droppings are on top of the cones," Vares explained.

Despite the low pine cone harvest, Estonia's woods are regenerating, while the RMK oversees a ton-counted national seed reserve.

"Seed stock planning takes into account the fact that certain tree species, such as spruce, have unusually lengthy seed year gaps.  For example, we plan our spruce seed stock so that we have about an eight-year supply," Vares said.

The pine seeds collected this year will be planted in the forest in 2025.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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