Improving the value of Eucalyptus nitens

IO2: Solid wood processing

Eucalyptus nitens has great potential as a resource for solid wood production and high-value appearance products. A downside to this, however, is that the species is known to suffer ill-effects from fast growth and wood drying, including growth strain, cell shrinkage and collapse, and associated internal checking. All of these current problems can be addressed through a targeted breeding programme to produce improved germplasm.

Scion has been instrumental in overcoming these issues by developing improved E. nitens germplasm that will provide a more consistent quality of wood and better pulp wood properties for the manufacture of high-value paper products. The research project is part of the seven year ‘Specialty Wood Products Research Partnership’ between central government and industry to investigate new wood products derived from specialty species, such as eucalypts, cypresses and Douglas-fir.

The work also expands on Scion’s ongoing diverse species research to develop improved breeding stock for commercial species other than radiata pine.

The first stage in the programme involved phenotyping a seven-year-old progeny trial, by quantifying the current wood quality issues that need to be addressed.

Breeding selections were made based on genetic analyses of these wood quality data, which are being used by Scion’s industry partner Southwood Export Ltd (SWEL) in two new seed orchards that target seed production for their planted forests. One seed orchard will produce germplasm for consistent wood quality for use in high-value wood products, and the other will focus on providing high-quality pulp.

“This year, we were able to quantify the overall genetic variation of the traits important to both of these breeding objectives, and have developed initial genomic predictions of these traits for future breeding purposes,” says Geneticist Dr Mari Suontama.

“We will continue to develop an application for future use so that we can benefit from these genomic estimated breeding values and boost further genetic improvements of the population.”

The breeding programme will help develop improved breeding stock for E. nitens and other specialty species that will expand New Zealand’s range of exported wood products. The Specialty Wood Products Research Partnership expects the export benefits to New Zealand to reach $350 million by 2030, and rise to $3.6 billion per annum by 2050. The programme will also provide regional opportunities for employment, Māori forestry and wood manufacturing.

Collaborators / Partners: SWEL and other SWP partners
Investment: MBIE, Scion Core, forest industry partners

AR16 - nitens discs 

The large phenotypic variation in internal checking found in Eucalyptus nitens discs is due mainly to genetics, and can be improved by breeding.