Grow­ing con­fi­dence in forestry’s fu­ture

New Zealand Logger - - Forest Grower’s Research 2018 -

WHEN SCION LAUNCHED AN AM­BI­TIOUS pro­gramme four years ago aimed at dou­bling the pro­duc­tiv­ity of New Zealand plan­ta­tion forests by 2050 it all seemed pie-in-the-sky.

Af­ter all, the size of the for­est es­tate had been go­ing back­wards and no one re­ally knew if it was fea­si­ble to dou­ble the amount of wood grown in just 36 years with­out in­creas­ing the land – ef­fec­tively, it meant tak­ing a quan­tum leap in just a sin­gle ro­ta­tion.

But the pro­gramme, launched un­der the ti­tle ‘Grow­ing Con­fi­dence in Forestry’s Fu­ture’, dif­fered from any­thing tried be­fore, be­cause it fol­lowed a highly in­te­grated ap­proach, pool­ing all the re­search re­sources to max­imise re­sults. The idea be­ing that the sum of the whole would be greater than the in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents.

A joint ini­tia­tive be­tween Scion, for­est grow­ers and the Min­istry of Busi­ness In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment, the pro­gramme was based on fos­ter­ing and es­tab­lish­ing new links be­tween var­i­ous re­searchers and in­ter­ested par­ties to ben­e­fit forestry as a whole. And it’s al­ready show­ing promis­ing re­sults.

The progress made in just four years was out­lined by the Scion team at the 2018 For­est Grow­ers Re­search con­fer­ence in Tau­ranga last month.

The pro­gramme is based on ‘in­no­va­tion clus­ters’ drawn from var­i­ous groups, with four hav­ing been es­tab­lished: Prod­uct Qual­ity Im­prove­ment clus­ter, Pheno­typ­ing Plat­form clus­ter, Pro­duc­tiv­ity En­hance­ment clus­ter and Sus­tain­abil­ity clus­ter.

Their goal is to build more pro­duc­tive, re­source-ef­fi­cient forests that pro­vide the raw ma­te­rial base for added-value pro­cess­ing to be achieved through shift­ing for­est man­age­ment to a ‘pre­ci­sion forestry’ ba­sis by in­te­grat­ing lat­est ad­vances in sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, tree phys­i­ol­ogy, ge­net­ics, im­proved man­age­ment etc.

The ap­proach starts from the breed­ing pro­gramme and in­cludes de­vel­op­ing trees that match spe­cific sites and cli­matic con­di­tions around the coun­try in­stead of a one-size-fits-all method.

Gains can also be made in how nurs­eries raise trees from seeds and much re­search has cen­tred around re­duc­ing fungi­cide, which may harm some ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria as well as killing off harm­ful ones, plus re­duc­ing the amount of fer­tiliser, which will not only save costs but also ben­e­fit the en­vi­ron­ment. Scion is work­ing to de­velop these ‘recipes’ for nurs­eries around New Zealand.

Other re­search is fo­cus­ing on us­ing satel­lite and LiDAR tech­nol­ogy to pre­dict sites where wind dam­age is likely, so that for­est own­ers can mit­i­gate these. And as forests grow, the same tech­nol­ogy will help iden­tify where fer­tiliser should be ap­plied to boost growth and to con­stantly mon­i­tor for dis­eases. New types of fer­tiliser, such as Bi­uret (a by-prod­uct of ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser man­u­fac­tur­ing) are also be­ing tri­alled, with good re­sults.

The re­search may also iden­tify which sites are more prof­itable for grow­ing struc­tural tim­ber and which ones pro­duce trees bet­ter suited to prun­ing.

Some of the re­sults from the pro­gramme are al­ready im­pact­ing fu­ture forests, with re­search show­ing that the op­ti­mum stock­ing level for struc­tural tim­ber trees is 676 stems per hectare, not the 500/ha fig­ure cur­rently used.

The Scion team says the GCFF pro­gramme is adding value across the board and the ul­ti­mate goal is within grasp.


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