Project Update, July - December 2021

  In this issue:

NZDFI's 1BT partnership: progress report

Work under NZDFI’s One Billion Trees partnership with Te Uru Räkau was a major component of the last six months, especially for Paul Millen, Ruth McConnochie, and the Proseed team. Paul and Ruth had a very challenging spring establishing new trials, while the Proseed plant propagation team have been producing clonal material for planting.

New trials established

We went ahead with our planned new trial establishment during the spring, despite various challenges, not least Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions. These impacted on trial site preparation, planting material despatch, planting, and early maintenance activities. Nevertheless we were pleased with what we were able to achieve.

E.bosistoana Progeny Trials

  • Takou Bay, Pāmu/Landcorp, Northland
  • Tukituki, Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Hawkes Bay
  • Hamilton, North Canterbury

E.globoidea Seedling Seed Stands

  • Takou Bay, Pāmu, Northland
  • Upton, Hawkes Bay
  • Holdaway, Wairau, Marlborough
  • Lissamans, Marlborough
  • Fleming, North Canterbury

Demonstration/Genetic Gain Trials

  • Kapiro, Pāmu, Northland
  • Whaka Forest, Timberlands, Bay of Plenty
  • Waitere, Pāmu, Hawkes Bay
  • Holdaway, Wairau, Marlborough

NZDFI is grateful to all our landowner hosts for their significant financial and in-kind investment into our trial sites.  The trial network is the fundamental foundation of our long-term programme to produce improved nursery stock and to understand species adaptability so that the right tree is planted in the right place.




NZDFI trial sites including 2021 additions.

Newly planted trial at Lissaman's, Marlborough.

Takou Bay, Northland.

Uptons, Hawkes Bay.

2. Nursery propagation

NZDFI’s One Billion Trees partnership is enabling us to scale up production of improved nursery stock, both clonal plants and seedlings produced from our first-generation seed orchards and breeding populations.

This year we contracted two nurseries in addition to our regular provider, Morgans Road Nursery in Blenheim, to produce plants for us. And while Morgans Road Nursery continued to achieve high levels of high-quality seedling production, our two new contract nurseries were less successful in producing the quantity and quality of seedlings we were seeking.

This led to a shortfall of plants, and some growers who had ordered plants were left disappointed.

Moreover, availability of NZDFI’s improved E. bosistoana and E. globoidea seed is limited, and the seed is costly to collect and clean, so we need to maximise the nursery stock produced from the improved seed. The seedling production technique used by Morgans Road (germination in trays, followed by pricking out) is now proven to give the best outcomes, and nurseries contracted to grow NZDFI stock in future will use this technique.


3. Next steps under the 1BT partnership

The XyloGene brand was officially launched in November (see next item) and NZDFI’s future generations of improved nursery stock will be marketed under this brand. NZDFI has registered the XyloGene trademark to certify the genetically improved seed and germplasm.

The breeding and propagation programmes continue apace, with new nursery contracts in place, seed collection completed and orders taken for the 2022 programme, and Proseed already gearing up for increased output of seeds and clonal material.

Our tissue culture project is also making good progress as also reported later in this newsletter.


Xylogene launch, October 1st 2021

The official launch of NZDFI’s XyloGene improved planting stock was held at NZDFI trial host Warwick Lissaman’s Awatere valley property in Marlborough on October 1st.Forestry Minister Stuart Nash was in attendance, along with many other senior forest industry figures.  The Minister planted elite E. globoidea seedlings to establish a new 2nd generation XyloGene seed orchard on Warwick’s property. Read the full media report here.






Forestry minister Stuart Nash plants an elite E. globoidea seedling.

Proseed Propagation Update

Contributor: Paul Schroeder, Proseed NZ Ltd

Since 2015, Proseed NZ has been working on techniques for clonal propagation of NZDFI’s eucalypts. The ultimate aim is to assess whether a commercial-scale clonal production system could be viable: the focus to date has been on E. bosistoana.

Although clonal propagation is common in Australia and South American eucalypt-growing countries, it has not been done before with NZDFI’s species. As work to date at Proseed has shown, there are big differences between species, and between clones within a species, in terms of rooting potential and other growth characteristics. There are also many environmental variables which influence the strike rate of cuttings and subsequent growth required to produce a plant which is ready to go into the ground.


Variable clone strike rate well-illustrated.

The 1BT partnership is enabling Proseed to upscale its clonal propagation programme, with the main objectives as follows:

  • evaluate coppice as a material source for cutting propagation
  • develop a protocol for clonal propagation of E. bosistoana from cuttings
  • produce stools of elite clones for commercial scale plant production
  • produce 25,000 clonal plants for commercial deployment
  • test the potential of 10-year-old E. bosistoana for propagation by cuttings from coppice growth
  • report best practice for propagating E. bosistoana from cuttings.

In all some 15,000 rooted cuttings were produced this year. The Proseed experience has been a steep learning curve, with on-gong adjustments needed to almost every aspect of the procedure and growing environment.

Variable strike rates and rooting between clones is a key challenge, with some clones proving much more difficult to root than others. The hardest-to-root clones may ultimately best be reproduced through conventional seed orchard routes. One constraint which is hard to overcome in the short-term is the relatively limited choice of improved E. bosistoana germplasm available, meaning there is little choice but to continue working with as many of NZDFI’s clones as sensibly possible.

Development of a best practice clonal propagation technique for E. bosistoana remains a work in progress, and the Proseed team will continue to refine propagation techniques to lift strike rates as high as possible with as many clones as possible.


Mycorrhizal associations of Eucalyptus bosistoana

Scion were contracted to investigate the mycorrhizal fungi associations of E. bosistoana, to try and shed some light on the variable root strike rates between different E. bosistoana clones at Proseed. Before this study, nothing was known about the fungal community that associates with E.bosistoana, and how this component of the microbiome could help support propagation and establishment in New Zealand conditions.

The research, led by Dr Simeon Smaill, investigated whether there were any differences in mycorrhizal soil fungi communities:

  1. between two different mother plants, one that had moderate levels of root strike, the other which had poor rates of root strike, and
  2. between cuttings from the same two mother plants.

Key results

  • The fungal communities associated with the cuttings did not vary with the mother plant they were derived from.
  • The fungal communities differed significantly between early and late root strike cuttings.

The fungal community was dominated by Olpidiales (~85% or more). This was consistent regardless of cutting origin.

Implications of results for future work

Scion concluded that a fungal community structure dominated by Olpidiales is at least indicative of early root strike by E. bosistoana cuttings and may be driving this outcome but this is not certain. A longitudinal study would be needed to determine if Olpidiales abundance is a causative factor of early root strike, or if the fungi is simply adept at responding quickly to early root development. Unfortunately our 1BT funding ends on June 30th 2022, so any further work will require new funding.


In Vitro tissue culture research at the UC School of Biology

Contributor: Dr David Leung

Under NZDFI 1BT partnership project Proseed is working with Dr David Leung at University of Canterbury School of Biology to accelerate multiplication of E. bosistoana material using laboratory based tissue culture techniques.

In the last Project Update we reported on the good progress being made in attempts to reproduce E. bosistoana using tissue culture techniques.

The exciting news from David is that root formation is now occurring, which was the next hoped-for critical step.


Root formation achieved!

The work is entirely new, so a long way from being anything other than experimental; however, if the techniques can be developed and implemented at a commercial scale, it would offer us another way of up-scaling production of selected clones in a very short timeframe.  In the longer term, David says there is the option of developing in vitro collections of live plant material to form a gene bank.


Eucalypt health research update

Contributor: Dr Steve Pawson

Dr Steve Pawson leads the eucalypt health research programme at the University of Canterbury School of Forestry. Steve’s research team includes two PhD students, Carolin Weser and Leslie Mann, and a BSc Honours student, Robyn Patient.

Between them, the team is researching both ‘bottom up’ (resistance and tolerance), and ‘top down’ strategies (biotic constraints – e.g. predators and parasitoids) for eucalypt pest management.

The eucalyptus variegated beetle

Carolin is working on Paropsisterna cloelia – the eucalyptus variegated beetle (EVB), a relatively recent arrival and a pest which is thought to have the potential to become more of a problem than Paropsis charybdis (the eucalyptus tortoise beetle). This is because of its ability to produce more generations per year and be active for a longer period throughout the year. EVB seems to be spreading fast, and may be out-competing P. charybdis in some places.

Carolin’s project aims to estimate the threat of EVB, fill some knowledge gaps about EVB ecology, and lay the foundations for future bio-control of EVB in New Zealand.  Her plans include to:

  • study the development rate of immature stages of EVB at different temperatures under controlled conditions in the lab, and use the data to establish a predictive model for EVB phenology
  • investigate feeding capacity of the different life stages and study female adult fertility and fecundity, and compare this to what is known about charybdis

Carolin is halfway through her first season’s field work, and has already identified some key EVB predators in the field.


Known EVB distribution to date.

Eucalypt variegated beetles.

Other eucalypt health research will look at whether EVB is out-competing P. charybdis on specific eucalypt species and whether eucalypt leaves with different properties are more or less susceptible to browsing.

Exploring the potential for LiDAR monitoring

As one part of her PhD research, Leslie Mann is investigating the potential to use LiDAR for monitoring the impact of eucalypt pests. Large-scale monitoring using LiDAR could save time and money; the technology has the capacity to assess canopy density, tree height and diameter, which it may be possible to correlate with insect loading. This work is in its early stages.


E. argophloia progeny trial assessment

Eucalyptus argophloia Is one of NZDFI’s species of interest, because of its high durability, attractive red-brown timber, and its potential to hybridise with E. bosistoana. Its natural range in Australia is limited to south-eastern Queensland, but it has been the subject of at least one breeding programme there.

In 2011, NZDFI established a progeny test at three different locations – Juken NZ’s Ngamu forest in the Wairarapa, Dillon’s property in the Waihopia Valley, Marlbrough, and Cuddon’s property on the outskirts of Blenheim.

E. argophloia progeny trial, Cuddons, near Blenheim.

The trial site located in Ngaumu forest had poor survival due to poor drainage and has been abandoned. The site on the Dillon property has good survival but growth is very slow. The Cuddon trial has good growth and survival overall.

Ruth McConnochie recently undertook a Year 10 assessment of the Cuddon site: the Filenote giving full details of the analysis is available here. The small sample of families limits the potential of the trial as a breeding resource. Coring to investigate heartwood development is planned once tree diameters are slightly bigger, and the trial will then be thinned.


Posts and poles update

In the last Project Update we provided information about progress in research into using durable eucalypt timber for posts and poles.

For those keen to read more, check out our recent NZ Tree Grower article.


Dr Clemens Altaner measures post before peeling.

Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate resilient future

We contributed to the Ministry for the Environment’s consultation on their emissions reduction plan – ‘Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate resilient future’ - and included a letter to the Minister of Climate Change, the Hon James Shaw.

We believe our vision for sustainable regional hardwood industries based on establishing wood supply catchment-scale plantings of durable eucalypts would be very positive contributor to New Zealand’s transition to a low carbon bio-circular economy.  The NZDFI koru poster illustrates how we anticipate the outputs and benefits of our project to grow over time.


NZDFI Virtual Workshop, February 10th 2022

We are preparing a virtual workshop, for the afternoon of Thursday 10th February 2022. The workshop will be free and delivered by Zoom.

This follows the cancellation of our November 10th Marlborough workshop due to Covid uncertainties.

This workshop will, quite literally, cover much of the same ground as we would have in November. Members of the NZDFI team spent a day touring the sites and filming their planned presentations, and our virtual event will comprise these presentations and more. Presenters will include Paul Millen and Associate Professor Clemens Altaner. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and join discussions during the workshop.

We will be inviting registrations early in 2022, so watch out for an email from the NZDFI after the New Year break.

NZDFI workshops are part-funded by the WIDE Trust.






Videographer Daniel Boczniewicz films Paul Millen at Sagger’s property, Marlborough.

Final word from Paul

There have been challenges and the need to adapt this year particularly when the delta outbreak occurred in August. This was when our trial planting programme had just got underway as well as the despatch of the XyloGene nursery stocks to people who had placed orders and paid deposits. It was a difficult period for all as planting was delayed for three weeks and crews were forced to do their best to store seedlings until planting could resume. I spent a lot of time on the phone and emailing people to discuss options and make new plans. While this was stressful for all involved, we managed to keep most of our programme on track with the patience and support of our landowner hosts, their managers and nurseries. I’m very grateful to everyone involved.

Finally, despite the delta outbreak also delaying the XyloGene launch we were able to host Minister Nash on a beautiful Marlborough morning at Warwick Lissaman’s farm. It was a special day for NZDFI: it is now over 13 years since the NZDFI was established and this event marked a major milestone.

Tree breeding does takes time! But now we have our first generation of improved planting stock, and we are getting new forests planted with more planned for 2022.

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all NZDFI’s collaborators and supporters.

Paul Millen


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