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Project Update July - December 2023

  In this issue:

Marlborough's Future is Durable - Regional Forestry Biomass Case Study and Workshop

NZDFI is evaluating how new investment in planting naturally durable hardwood forests could contribute to sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Marlborough’s wine industry and the wider Marlborough economy. The project is funded by MPI’s Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) fund.

Workshop, Friday 16th February, Blenheim. Join us!

NZDFI invites you to attend a one-day workshop: 'Marlborough's Future is Durable', Friday 16th February 2024, Blenheim.

The workshop is based at the Marlborough Research Centre, Blenheim, and will provide a summary of the Marlborough Regional Forestry Biomass Case study project.

Join us for a morning of presentations followed by afternoon field visits to hear from scientists and practitioners who have been working to evaluate:

  • the vision and potential value of a new durable hardwood industry in Marlborough
  • growth rates and biomass yields produced by different durable eucalypt species in Marlborough
  • options for utilising naturally durable eucalypt timber for vineyard posts and poles and other products
  • alternative potential markets for biomass residues, including bioenergy, in wineries and other Marlborough industries and organisations
  • practical aspects of growing, harvesting, processing and utilising durable eucalypts in Marlborough.

Full programme details here

To register: Please email Susan Foster ( susan@mrc.org.nz ) at the Marlborough Research Centre. Susan will confirm your registration and raise an invoice for the $50 registration fee. Morning tea and lunch are provided.

Although this project focuses on Marlborough, it is relevant to all northern and north-eastern regions of New Zealand. The forest industry is seeking to diversify in the face of many challenges. Durable eucalypts provide one feasible alternative, especially in regions likely to see increased drought frequency and severity.

We invite anyone who is interested to join us.

The science behind the Marlborough case study

Our research aims to provide a pathway for developing a regional plan for a new forestry and wood processing supply chain, based on around 5,000 hectares of durable eucalypt forests planted between now and 2050.  We believe a new regional hardwood industry could improve long-term sustainability and resilience for Marlborough’s wine industry and generate new investment and employment.

See our biomass flows graphic (right) for an idea of our vision.

Potential biomass flows from durable eucalypt forests in Marlborough (click to enlarge).

Prof Euan Mason and Dr Vega Xu of the University of Canterbury School of Forestry are leading the science behind this case study. Euan and Vega aim to make accurate estimates of how fast durable eucalypts grow in Marlborough, and the total tree biomass growers can expect over a rotation. They have made good progress with combining the data from earlier whole tree destructive sampling with LiDAR point cloud imagery.  Using statistics and machine learning, they are developing algorithms which can provide estimates of growth and biomass.

As well as advancing the science, the regional case study aims to strengthen the vision and practical understanding of how a durable hardwood industry could operate in Marlborough. This ranges from growing the trees on different site types through crop management, harvesting and possible sites for processing, to the spectrum of possible products. These include naturally durable posts and poles for the wine industry, solid wood and veneer, biofuel, pharmaceutical oils and other bio-products. The case study proposes two processing hubs, one in northern and one in southern Marlborough, with different respective supply chains, as shown in the biomass flows graphic. We are assessing what each supply chain could produce based on a sustainable harvest from a total 5,000 ha of forests planted between now and 2050.

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Elite Tree Seed Collection

Breeding basics

Tree improvement via traditional intergenerational breeding cycles to produce genetically improved seedlings is the principal focus of NZDFI’s research and development strategy. Collecting seed from elite trees within our trials is one of the necessary steps to achieving this.

Selecting elite trees is based on:

Capturing as much variability as possible. NZDFI commissioned extensive seed collections and imports from the Australian natural (unimproved) populations to establish broad-based breeding populations. The natural populations of most eucalypt species are highly variable with a propensity for hybridising and selfing. These large family collections are being rogued to remove poor performing individuals and families with selections of elite families/trees being made to advance a second generation.

Broadening the adaptability of eucalypts. NZDFI has tested species over multiple environments to evaluate genetics x environment and elite genotypes have been selected that are productive across a broad range of NZ environments.

Optimising genetic diversity for next breeding cycle. The age of sexual maturity of eucalypts is variable both between families and within families. The onset of anthesis and subsequent seed production can also be seasonally sporadic. A high representation of families must flower together with weather conditions that favour the dispersal of pollen by insects to ensure outcrossing. Successive annual collections of seed from elite trees are required.

Collecting seed from NZDFI’s elite trees

Following completion of productivity, form and wood properties assessments, we have identified elite families within NZDFI’s Eucalyptus bosistoana and E. globoidea breeding populations and selected plus trees within these families for seed collection.

 

  • E. globoidea

Over the past six months, 126 individual tree collections have been made from all three E. globoidea progeny trials planted in 2011 including:

  • 73 seedlots collected at the Atkinson trial, South Wairarapa.
  • 8 seedlots collected at Juken NZ’s Ngaumu trial, Wairarapa.
  • 61 seedlots collected at the Avery trial, southern Marlborough.

These seedlots are being held in storage by Proseed for future deployment in 2nd generation progeny trials along with a bulk seedlot of surplus seed combined for commercial deployment by NZDFI under the XyloGene brand should there be demand.

 

  • E. bosistoana

Also 23 individual seedlots have been collected from a mix of families within the 2009 and 2010 E. bosistoana/E. melliodora progeny trial located at Marlborough District Council’s Cravens Road reserve. These have been delivered to Morgans Road to propagate seedlings so that a taxonomic evaluation can be made for any phenotypic hybrids.

 

  • E. macrorhyncha

Eucalyptus macrorhyncha has been extensively tested in NZDFI demonstration trials and has proven its adaptability in cold and dry environments. These trials were deployed with a mix of native (Australian) forest genetics, and some of these trials have been re-assessed (see Project Update January-June 2023).

A selection of 36 plus trees producing seed were identified across seven sites and individual collections made. These could be deployed to establish one or two sites with second- generation New Zealand landrace seedling seed stands as an immediate low-cost step to providing a future seed source with moderate genetic improvement. The seedlots will also be stored for possible deployment in a future breeding programme.

This work was funded by MPI’s Industry Transformation Project.

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Collection of seed from elite 12-year-old E. globoidea tree in NZDFI Atkinson breeding trial.

Ten metre extension ladder being used to collect seed from elite 19 year old E. macrorhyncha tree in NZDFI Waikakaho seed stand.

Magnified image of E. globoidea seed. There are over 100 seeds per gram.

Racks with E. globoidea collections in seed drying room at Proseed NZ.

Assessment of Eucalyptus macrorhyncha wood properties

Eucalyptus macrorhyncha was first identified twenty years ago as a potential New Zealand plantation species. Trials of Australian unimproved seedlots were planted from 2003 to 2006 in Marlborough. The species was subsequently established in a succession of NZDFI’s regional demonstration trials in 2011-2018 with over 50 PSPs located across around 20 sites. These trials demonstrated the versatility and high natural insect tolerance of this species.

E. macrorhyncha produces a light pink-brown-coloured heartwood with class 2 above-ground and class 3 in ground durable ratings (AS5604, 2005).

Testing E. macrorhyncha’s wood properties

To evaluate the wood properties of New Zealand-grown trees, thirty-six cores were collected from 18-year-old trees planted by NZDFI at Waikakaho Forest, Marlborough.  The cores were transported to the School of Forestry, where they were analysed by PhD student Vikash Ghildiyal for heartwood quantity, collapse during drying, basic density, and heartwood quality (extractive content).

The analyses confirmed that E. macrorhyncha wood has no exceptional properties at this age, but can be considered a good average timber.

 

 

Eucalyptus macrorhyncha heartwood boards.

 

Stringybark panelling. Darker boards are E. macrorhyncha.

In line with other species, basic density of the young New Zealand-grown E. macrorhyncha wood was lower than the reported values for the Australian old-growth resource. However, Australian old-growth E. macrorhyncha is reported to be slightly denser than E. globoidea.

Collapse was present and comparable to that of New Zealand-grown E. globoidea timber. There were significant differences in collapse between E. macrorhyncha provenances. High collapse coincided with high extractive content: this leads to the conclusion that provenance will be important if selecting for more durable wood.

The research fills a gap, and NZDFI will continue to explore the potential for E. macrorhyncha because of its capacity to extend the climatic zones where durable eucalypts could be grown to drier, colder sites than can be tolerated by other NZDFI species.

A report: Assessment of E. macrorhyncha wood properties  is available. The research was funded by MPI’s Industry Transformation Project.

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Propagation Update

Contributor: Paul Schroeder, Proseed NZ

As part of NZDFI’s now completed One Billion Trees project, the skilled team at Proseed NZ put a lot of effort into developing techniques for cloning and grafting E. bosistoana and E. globoidea – the first time this had been tried in New Zealand.

The technical aspects proved challenging; however one successful outcome was that 11,000 clonal E. bosistoana were planted out in a series of new trials in 2021 in a diversity of regions.

Work at Proseed is continuing on a smaller scale, led by Paul Schroeder and Maree Creswell.  E. bosistoana rootstock is being grown ready for grafting orchard blanking stock and any new clonal selections.  The archive of E. bosistoana stools used to produce planting stock for cutting trials has been restored to active growth, ready for collection and setting of cuttings to establish fresh, rejuvenated stools.

New techniques to improve takes of grafted E. globoidea are also being explored using root stock grown from the same tree or family from which new scions from elite trees are planned for collection this summer. E. globoidea has proved very difficult to graft successfully in New Zealand conditions, but the Proseed team are not giving up yet!

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Archived E. bosistoana stools.

E. globoidea family rootstocks being  grown for grafting in the near future.

Updates from NZDFI's post-doc, PhD and MSc students

Progress Report: Vikash Ghildiyal

Vikash has now submitted his PhD: “Understanding and reducing drying collapse in difficult-to-dry plantation-grown eucalypt timber”.

He will be defending it in February and we wish him all the best with this final step of his PhD.

Vikash has so far produced two refereed publications:

More details of Vikash's research can be found in Project Update January-June 2020  and Project Update January-June 2022.

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Vikash labelling core samples in the field.

Progress Report: Carolin Weser

Carolin is making good progress with her PhD on the phenology and natural enemis of Parospsterna cloelia and Paropsis chayrbdis and has recently had a review published in the NZ Journal of Forestry Science:

Read more about Carolin's research, most recently in Project Update July-December 2022 .

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Shaking insects off trees using a stick and catching them on a beating tray to assess the seasonal presence and abundance of predatory arthropod species.

Progress Report: Shiva Pariyar

Shiva is in the first year of his PhD, and  is 'engaged in multifaceted endeavour', undertaking a comprehensive literature review, and writing his doctoral proposal to assess Eucalyptus crown damage using remote sensing.

He has been busy in the field, regularly collecting geospatial data in NZDFI's Martin trial in North Canterbury, using UAV (drone) and Hovermap systems at two-week intervals.  Shiva has also devoted considerable time to collecting representative leaf samples from Eucalyptus bosistoana trees, which will enable him to ground-truth his remote-sensing data.

So overall he is integrating theoretical groundwork, practical fieldwork, and data collection - all pivotal for the successful pursuit of his PhD.

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Collecting leaf samples with a pole pruner.

Shiva flying the UAV to capture LiDAR and photogrammetric data.

Welcome to Ning Ye

Ning Ye has been part of the NZDFI team as a post-doctoral researcher in Forestry for much of 2023, working with Dr Vega Xu. She has been heavily involved in the SLMACC project. Her research aims to utilise drone-based LiDAR data to create a New Zealand-specific Eucalyptus biomass model, and she has been successful in developing a system for estimating tree-level above-ground biomass using LiDAR-derived metrics. During her PhD studies at the School of Forestry, her research focused on classifying New Zealand's native forests using optical satellite imagery and machine learning algorithms. The PhD equipped her with a skill set in remote sensing and machine learning, applicable across various forestry domains.

She has a BSc degree in Geographical Information Systems from Wuhan University and an MSc degree in Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation from the University of Twente, Netherlands.

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Ning Ye at work with a drone carrying a LiDAR camera.

Welcome to Hasini Hewawitharanage

I am Hasini Nethma Hewawitharanage, from Sri Lanka and I started my PhD in October 2023. My academic journey commenced with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Technology and Management, where I specialized in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Peradeniya. Following graduation, I worked as a temporary lecturer at both the University of Peradeniya and Rajarata University of Sri Lanka.

My PhD research focuses on the effect of uronic acids on wood properties.

 

Uronic acids are a group of sugar acids found in both primary and secondary cell walls. They carry charges that facilitate interactions with water, and ions within the cell wall, as well as contribute to lignification. Primary cell wall uronic acid (galacturonic acid) originates from pectin and aids cell expansion. Most uronic acids (glucuronic acids) in secondary cell walls originate from side chains of hemicelluloses and might play a role in growth stresses.

Under the guidance of A. Prof. Clemens Altaner and Dr. Marie Squire my research aims to investigate the influence of uronic acids on growth-stresses in plants, their role on wood collapse, and the possible genetic control of uronic acid levels in wood. This involves quantifying uronic acids and identifying their specific locations within wood structures.

I extend my appreciation to the UC School of Forestry for their invaluable support.

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Welcome to Frederick Antonio

I hold a MPhil in Wood Technology (2017) from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana where I initially obtained a BSc in Natural Resources Management (2013). I worked as a Teaching Assistant and Graduate Research Assistant at the Department of Wood Science, KNUST during my national service and graduate studies, as a Research Assistant with the Soil Fertility Section, CSIR-Savanna Agricultural Research Institute, Tamale from 2018 to 2021, and then as an Assistant Lecturer at the Tamale Technical University, Ghana.

The NZDFI project aligns with my educational and career objectives to mitigate the over-exploitation of durable hardwoods in the face of dwindling natural forests and climate change.

I enrolled in a PhD at the School of Forestry in November 2023. My research entails assessing the decay resistance of plantation-grown ground-durable eucalyptus species. It will focus on exploring non-destructive evaluation techniques such as NIR spectroscopy to predict decay resistance of plantation-grown eucalypts for utilization as outdoor wood products such as vineyard posts. I am working under the expert guidance of A. Prof Clemens Altaner and Professor Tripti Singh who was recently appointed Director of Australia’s National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life.

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Welcome to John Ong

John Ong hails from Singapore and is doing a MSc in Forestry Science. John has a bachelor's degree in Environmental Engineering from the National University of Singapore and has several years’ of professional experience as an engineer in the building and environmental sector in Singapore.

John’s master’s project will focus on density variation for E. globoidea and E. bosistoana within a tree and across stands. This project will be useful in determining the properties of New Zealand grown E. globoidea and E. bosistoana and their practical applications. He is working under the guidance of Prof. Euan Mason and A. Prof Clemens Altaner.

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John off on a bouldering adventure, Castle Hill, Canterbury.

New South Wales conference and visit, October 2023

Contributor: Paul Millen

In October I enjoyed a ten-day visit to Australia that included Forestry Australia/NZ Institute of Forestry combined conference held at Tweed Heads, New South Wales, 15 – 18 October 2023. This was the first significant conference held since Forestry Australia was established to revitalise collaboration and support across a diversity of forestry sector interests.

The conference theme was: Embracing Our Natural Capital: The Science, Technology and Art of Managing Forests For All Values. The event sold out, with almost 500 delegates including over 80 from New Zealand.

There were well over 100 presentations across four themes in three days. The conference had a real buzz, with many great speakers, excellent networking opportunities, and the Gold Coast beaches right across the road.

On the final day I chose to go on the Farm, Agroforestry and Family Business field trip. It was an excellent day during which we saw the full sawing and processing of logs from a mix of durable species and trees of the same species in maturing plantations.

We visited Hurford Hardwood’s sawmill and processing plant– a family business established in 1932 that spans growing, manufacturing, and wholesaling; also one of Super Forest Plantations’ Nimbin properties, a mixed farming enterprise (plantation timber and cattle) developed over  the past 23 years with over 1,000 ha of durable hardwoods in mixed species plantings across multiple sites.

Both businesses are members of the Australian-based Durable Eucalypt Growers Forum, a group focused on plantation expansion with durable eucalypt species to replace the reduction in native forest supply. West Australia and Victoria’s forests are now closed from any further harvesting ( Timber closure leaving impact | Gippsland Times). This leaves New South Wales and Queensland with the only state-owned log supply of durable species. Political and environmental pressures are mounting to end native forest logging in these states as well.

The Australian Forest and Wood Innovations fund

Australia’s Federal Government has recognised the impact that these closures will have on domestic wood supply. At the conference we heard about the new $100m Australian Forest and Wood Innovations (AFWI) research and development fund  set up to support the forest industry. The fund will enable the establishment of three research centres of excellence at Australian universities with the first already based at Tasmania’s University in Hobart.

This new fund is exciting as it could provide an opportunity for NZDFI to collaborate with the Durable Eucalypt Growers Forum, with the possibility of establishing trans-Tasman trials and wood processing research and development.

After the conference I visited the Department of Agriculture and Forestry (DAF) Salisbury Engineered Wood Products processing facilities in Brisbane. The centre’s capability is impressive with a small- and large-scale equipment and plant that allows for multi-design, testing and analysis of wood properties. I met Robbie McGavin who manages the centre and is well known for his work on peeling young eucalypt with spindle-less lathes. Clemens Altaner has already contacted Robbie about the possibility of sending some New Zealand-grown E. bosistoana and E. globoidea logs for testing, and Robbie is keen to do this.

Finally I visited Professor Tripti Singh, who has recently been appointed Director of the Timber Design and Durability Centre located in the University of the Sunshine Coast Eco-Science precinct. Tripti contributed to timber durability research as part of the Specialty Wood Products programme (SWP), and her new role may open more opportunities for trans-Tasman collaboration.

So all-in-all a very productive, energising and enjoyable trip!

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Hurford Hardwoods

Andrew Hurford in Hurfod Hardwoods showroom.

Mark Wright of Super Forest Plantations describing management of E. cloeziana, a favoured class 1 durable eucalypt.

Durable eucalypt boards racked for drying at Hurfords Hardwoods. 

Engineered Wood Products laboratory with veneer outfeed on right, DAF, Salisbury.

Specialist sawmill laboratory with moveable table, DAF Salisbury.

Spindleless lathe with Queensland hoop pine veneer output, DAF ,Salisbury.

 

NZ School of Forestry hosts Te Uru Rākau visitors

The NZDFI Science Team held its regular December meeting at the School of Forestry on December 12th 2023, and four Te Uru Rākau staff joined the meeting. Evan Powell and Nick van Haandel provided an update of the Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) following the change of government.

Evan and Nick addressed the question of what MPI/Te Uru Rākau might be able to offer NZDFI to help us continue our research and development work, given the lack of  funding available from the Forest Growers Levy and the ITP, and the absence of a multi-species programme to replace the Specialty Wood Products programme (SWP).

The NZDFI Science Team and TuR visitors at the School of Forestry, December 2023.

The outcome was a promise of support from the Te Uru Rākau team to help NZDFI develop an independent Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) application for a multi-year research and development programme. The Science Team has lots of exciting ideas about the research that needs to be done, and ideally would like to secure up to $4.2 million funding for a new six-year programme. To succeed with this application, additional cash and in-kind support will be needed to help us leverage SFFF funds. We hope we will be successful in bringing new shareholders from the forest industry into NZDFIP Ltd (NZDFI's commercial entity). See Paul Millen's Final Word below for more information about this initiative. We are also exploring the possibility of collaborating with Australian colleagues under the Australian Forest and Wood Innovations scheme (AFWI).

The Te Uru Rākau team toured the School of Forestry, and during their time in Canterbury they also visited Proseed NZ in Amberley, John Fairweather's Specialty Timber Solutions sawmill at Sefton, and Science Team member and farm forester Gary Fleming's farm near Rangiora.

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Final word from Paul Millen: A new era for NZDFI

New Zealand Dryland Forests Innovation (NZDFI) was established in 2008 by the Marlborough Research Centre Trust (MRCT) as a regional research and development start-up project with the support of three forest industry partners: University of Canterbury’s NZ School of Forestry (UoC); Ngāi Tahu-owned Proseed NZ (Proseed) and Vineyard Timbers.

Since that time, the team has worked tirelessly on durable eucalypt breeding, research and development, towards our vision of creating sustainable regional durable hardwood industries in New Zealand.

In July 2022, we established a separate entity New Zealand Dryland Forests IP Ltd, with the XyloGene brand. This was the start of our activities to commercialise genetically improved durable eucalypt germplasm via a royalty payment system on sales of genetically improved plants. The establishment of NZDFIP Ltd effectively separates commercial activities from the much broader focus of NZDFI’s research and development programme.

The next phase of our development is now underway.

We are seeking new shareholders who recognise the value that NZDFI has created by working collaboratively. Our plan is to deliver tree breeding, research and extension services to new shareholders in a similar way to that which the Radiata Pine Breeding Company undertakes for industry. We want to focus our communication and education into building the industry capability needed for a New Zealand durable hardwood industry.

Up to 49% of the NZDFIP Ltd shareholding is on offer to forest growers that have the land, capability, and a strategy to diversify by investing in large-scale planting with our elite germplasm. We are seeking expressions of interest from NZ forest companies that have shown interest in diversifying with our durable eucalypts.

Ultimately, we plan to establish a long-term wider industry commercial partnership team that can provide both new leadership and investment, which is extremely important when working in forestry timescales. If all goes to plan, we hope to have our new ownership structure in place by mid-2024.

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