Ge­net­ics to boost soft­wood re­turns

Australian Forests and Timber - - Front Page -

SOFT­WOOD FOR­EST grow­ers are set to ben­e­fit from a new two-year re­search pro­gram with the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease wood qual­ity. By im­prov­ing ge­netic se­lec­tion for wood qual­ity fac­tors such as tim­ber stiff­ness, it could re­sult in in­creases in re­turns of hun­dreds of dol­lars per hectare.

The re­searchers will ex­ploit emerg­ing tools to mea­sure wood qual­ity non-de­struc­tively on young stand­ing trees in ra­di­ata and south­ern pines, and will test tens of thou­sands of trees across many field tri­als.

Tra­di­tion­ally, tree ge­net­ics pro­grams have been mostly about growth, form and tree health, with only a sub­set of trees as­sessed for wood qual­ity prop­er­ties such as tim­ber stiff­ness which have been more ex­pen­sive to test for.

How­ever, the tech­nol­ogy for test­ing wood qual­ity traits on large scale without de­stroy­ing trees is ad­vanc­ing and be­com­ing more cost-ef­fec­tive.

FWPA has co-funded the South­ern Tree Breed­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and its in­dus­try col­lab­o­ra­tors to test the ef­fec­tive­ness of dif­fer­ent wood qual­ity as­sess­ment tools, in­clud­ing ba­sic den­sity, acous­tic wave speed and re­sis­to­graph (a tool which can pro­vide quan­ti­ta­tive sam­ple data from re­sis­tance to a nee­dle-sized drill).

The Gen­eral Man­ager of the South­ern Tree Breed­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, Dr Tony McRae, said the com­mer­cial im­pacts of im­prov­ing wood qual­ity ge­net­ics in breed­ing could be sig­nif­i­cant if the tech­nol­ogy can be ap­plied to young trees on large scale.

He said the tim­ing is right, with a wave of new gen­er­a­tion ge­netic ma­te­rial com­ing on line.

“Wood qual­ity is a ma­jor de­ter­mi­nant of eco­nomic value in soft­wood plan­ta­tions,” he said.

“A one unit (GPa) in­crease in tim­ber stiff­ness for ra­di­ata pine is es­ti­mated to be worth on av­er­age al­most $570 ex­tra in net present value per hectare to an in­te­grated en­ter­prise grow­ing and pro­cess­ing struc­tural tim­ber.”

The data col­lected in the re­search will be in­cor­po­rated into the in­dus­try-wide TREEPLAN eval­u­a­tions for ra­di­ata and south­ern pines.

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