Meeting our science and innovation goals

Meeting our science and innovation goals as set out in our 2018-2023 Statement of Corporate Intent

Impact Area 1: Forests and landscapes.
Goal: To grow healthy, resilient forests that are planted primarily for their standing-forest benefits

By 2019, Scion, in conjunction with key industry, government and Maori, has developed an R&D programme that underpins the One Billion Trees Programme to ensure the right tree (exotic and indigenous) is planted in the right place for the right purpose, including: fit-for-purpose forest systems; accelerating propagation; forest establishment and silvicultural regimes; growth modelling; resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses; economic returns (e.g. from payments for ecosystem services, under-cropping or selective harvesting) and social acceptance.

In 2018-19 Scion and Ngati Whare Holdings Ltd received two-year funding for an MBIE Vision Matauranga project. Now into its second year the project is building on the science and innovation potential of Maori knowledge, resources (Whirinaki Forest), and people (Ngati Whare).

Ngati Whare are kaitiaki of the nationally renowned Whirinaki Forest, which has enormous cultural and spiritual value for them. A 10-year Regeneration Plan will return 640 hectares to indigenous species from exotic species, restoring the identity of Ngati Whare and enhancing the value of Whirinaki for New Zealand. Sourcing the podocarps required for such an extensive block of land is difficult and expensive. Since 2013, Scion and Ngati Whare have worked together in a strong relationship with a shared vision to restore and protect this forest.

In 2016, Ngati Whare built their $1m indigenous nursery in Minginui initially to provide trees for their Regeneration Plan and also create employment for Minginui. Under licence, Scion’s proprietary podocarp propagation research is being continued while at the same time being applied commercially – there are plans to support other iwi interested in nurseries, for example in Northland and East Coast.

In the programme’s first year, the primary focus was the transfer of basic scientific methodology and critical horticultural knowledge. Scion is helping Minginui staff to develop these new skillsets and explore new ways to improve tree health and size for out-planting and commercially scale-up production. At Minginui Nursery, Scion scientists are mentoring, teaching, and working closely with nursery staff on plant husbandry. In turn, Scion scientists are being mentored by kaumatua and hapu to explore and understand Ngati Whare matauranga for integration into the research.

At meetings with Minister of Forestry Shane Jones in October 2018 Scion reiterated the need for a regional multi iwi approach to the One Billion Trees Programme, underpinned by tools to assist Maori landowners to position themselves with regional councils, MPI, MBIE and Te Uru Rakau for funding.

Myrtle rust monitoring showed that infection significantly reduced germination of Lophomyrtus spp and that seeds from infected fruits were contaminated by myrtle rust spores. Myrtle rust significantly affects these species in native stands, causing significant dieback, premature fruit drop, and seedling death. One fungicide combined with a spreader showed promise in controlling myrtle rust on pohutukawa.

The three-year MBIE Weaving the Korowai research programme was completed in October 2018. The programme developed tools and approaches to support agency and community interactions in its delivery of the 100-year accord signed by the Crown, the regional council and Runanga to restore the Waiapu Catchment. These tools have been welcomed by parties outside the research programme including regional councils and government partners.

By 2019, Scion has developed a national ecosystem services-based investment framework for forests and an associated implementation plan that considers links to other national ecosystem services’ modelling systems.

Scion has recently published the foundation paper of its Forest Investment Framework (FIF) where FIF is described alongside other related spatial economic tools for forest ecosystem services. The paper also presents the 17 applications of FIF across New Zealand between 2014 to 2019.

In addition, Scion’s FIF now includes water value functions: (1) water footprint model with the radiata water use model; and (2) water yield/supply/scarcity functions, which were developed through the application of InVEST Water Yield model in the Ohinemuri catchment, Waikato.

By 2020, working with Maori entities, cultural values have been integrated with Forest Investment Framework output to make land use decisions.

Scion’s FIF tool was deployed as part of a project with Rotoma No. 1 Committee of Management. This work led to a decision not to plant gevuina trees, which were the original preferred planting option but did not adequately reflect the cultural needs of the committee.

By 2021, Scion, in partnership with Maori, has co-developed a breeding plan for at least one indigenous forest species.

Several hui were held to advance a breeding programme in either kauri or totara. The intent is for the key Healthy Trees, Healthy Future (HTHF) partners to move into the breeding and/or kauri planting stage.

Scion’s totara breeding concepts were submitted as part of an unsuccessful MBIE proposal. As part of the process Scion gained full support from iwi (Ngati Hine), and Scion will continue to look for opportunities to progress this important piece of indigenous forestry research via alternative channels.

By 2020, Scion has co-developed, in partnership with Maori, a Maori Forestry Roadmap and this is formally acknowledged by government.

With the appointment of the General Manager Maori Forestry Futures the Maori Forestry Roadmaps are being developed and planned for completion by June 2020.

By 2023, the Forest Investment Framework has been implemented to span three dimensions (time, space span three dimensions (time, space and risk), integrated with other land use models, and includes at least three new ecosystem services and five new forest productivity surfaces. The framework includes a protocol to integrate Maori cultural values in the decision-making process.

In 2018-19 Scion reviewed the Forest Investment Framework (FIF) and developed a baseline tool to which new products (ecosystem service values) may be added. As part of this process potential clients were canvassed may be added. As part of this process potential clients were canvassed to determine their needs and to embed them in a co-innovation approach for the expansion of the FIF concept.

Impact Area 2: High-value timber manufacturing and products. Goal: To grow healthy, resilient forests that produce high-value trees for manufacture into products that capture an increasing share of the global high-end market for timber.

By 2019, Scion has delivered a genotyping technology (e.g. SNP Chip) to the Radiata Pine Breeding Company (RPBC) that will initiate the inclusion of genomics into breeding programmes.

In 2018-19 Scion developed a unique genome array containing 36,285 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) that are well distributed across the genome. The array was tested on >8,000 samples, including material from archival progenitors, current RPBC breeding trials, nursery material, clonal lines, and material from Australia. Initial analyses indicated that the array is performing very well, with over 98% of data captured and reproducibility of 99.9%. A major achievement by Scion and the RPBC, this is the world’s first SNP array for radiata pine. RPBC is operationalising the use of this ‘array’ in its breeding programme during 2019-20.

A collaborative agreement was signed between Scion and the RPBC to enable greater science impact across all Scion research using RPBC germplasm as a conduit. The agreement will significantly benefit Scion’s forest growing outcomes in the next 20 years.

By 2019, the full value of planted forests, including key ecosystem services will have been communicated to forest managers, regional and central government agencies at the National Forest Ecosystem Services Forum.

By financial year end, an Oceania Ecosystem Services Forum, organised by Scion for September 2019, had attracted >50 abstracts and workshop proposals, which were sent for review by the OESF programme committee whose members are from New Zealand (AUT, StatsNZ, WRC, Maanaki Whenua Landcare Research) and Australian (ANU, UTas, IDEEA) institutions. The forum includes the Forest Ecosystem Services Forum and results from the related System of Environmental-Economic Account international framework application to forestry.

By 2019, the key outcomes from the multi-year GCFF programme (i.e. new knowledge on optimising right tree, right place, right purpose, improved genetics, silvicultural models and management methods) will have been communicated at national industry events to large-scale forest owners and the many small-scale Farm Forestry Association members.

Scion scientists attended the annual Forest Growers Research Conference in October to present an overview of GCFF outcomes to forest growers and other industry bodies. Feedback about the progress was positive and there was a strong desire from within industry to see many of the research findings be made available in practical terms, especially tools such as FIF.

The soils team had a paper* published in the top ranked journal in soils discipline. The paper used Long Term Site Productivity trial data that spans >25 years to assess the impacts of forest management practices on site sustainability (thought the lens of microbial community and diversity). The findings are important because they demonstrate enduring (multi-decade) impacts of management on the wider microbial ecosystem. How sustainable is fertiliser addition, residue management, and other forest practices?

*S.L. Addison, S.J. Smaill, L.G. Garrett, S.A. Wakelin (2019). Effects of forest harvest and fertiliser amendment on soil biodiversity and function can persist for decades. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 135, 194-205.

By 2019, options to reduce the impact of Phytophthora on radiata pine, kauri or one horticultural species have been identified and one option has been adopted.

The 2019 kauri seed collections were completed with collections made from 650 kauri over 14 rohe. Over 20,000 kauri are being grown in the Phytophthora-free production facility with the intention of either screening for resistance in the laboratory or planting back in their rohe for testing in the forest. A mana whenua partnership with the 14 partners was developed to continue the kauri work currently done under the MBIE Healthy Trees, Healthy Future research programme.

Red needle cast (RNC) epidemiological models were updated to integrate disease rankings from RPBC genotypes, copper treatments, environmental and on-site climatic data. The model was presented to the Forest Growers Levy Trust and a user interface developed to help growers understand historic RNC risk and expected response to copper treatment and selection for RNC resistance in their forests.

By 2019, Scion has progressed a novel wood modification process that shows improved durability, stability performance along with new colour options on radiata pine to pilot scale and has completed a commercialisation strategy.

In 2018-19 Scion implemented two commercialisation approaches for its Fufurylation (FA) technology, which gives radiata pine hardwood properties:

  • approach New Zealand companies to develop the FA technology and build a modification plant in New Zealand, and
  • approach an overseas company who might want to partner to build a plant in New Zealand.

We engaged with multiple New Zealand and international partners and shared technical data on formulation development and performance, as well as some patent details. We noted increased interest from New Zealand-based companies and entered into a collaborative agreement with an international partner. As part of this agreement, Scion undertook pilot plant trials. The trial process was productive, and we are continuing conversations with the partner about how best to progress this opportunity further.

By 2020, an integrated land use framework including timber and non-timber values has been proved and used in validating forestry investments under the One Billion Trees initiative.

Scion continued the development of its integrated land use modelling tools as part of a Northland case study. The results of this work were presented at the International Boreal Forest Research Association (IBFRA) hosted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. Acceptance of the model led to IIASA interest in collaborating with Scion in this area.

By 2020, Scion has worked with Maori, and at least one Maori entity is active in building a new vertically integrated high-value wood manufacturing enterprise.

With the appointment of the General Manager Maori Forestry Futures the targets are now being reviewed.

By 2021, Scion, with science collaborators, government, and industry partners with non-traditional urban stakeholders, has developed a platform of high-value wood products to provide better performing, higher amenity built-environments in terms of affordability, performance and sustainability, e.g. tall timber buildings, prefabrication etc.

With Toi Ohomai in the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge project Toitu te Kainga, Toitu te Ora, Toitu te Tangata, we have developed building designs targeting life time affordability resulting in positive health outcomes for the community of Te Whaiti.

By 2023, Scion has provided the underpinning science to support and enhance licence to operate through environmental certification and to meet regulatory requirements, particularly in relation to Douglas-fir wilding spread and pesticides use.

Scion’s work on herbicides has added to the good practice guides for MPI’s national wilding control programme - a critical step to improve the efficiency of wilding control. Our close collaboration with DOC and MPI led to development of a prototype detection system by DOC which we will continue to improve with the aim to operationalise our detection research over the next two years. We are also progressing work using new algorithms to detect major conifer infestations to help shape conifer management and control.

By 2023, tools, novel forest management approaches and new plant material will be embedded into New Zealand’s forests and forestry practices to support the industry’s target to increase radiata pine MAI from an average of 20 m³ ha-1 yr to 35 m³ ha-1 yr and in a way that enhances the sustainability of forest growing in New Zealand.

An outcome expected from Scion’s phenotyping platform is the ability to search for and identify outstanding trees in a forest, identify parentage and inform future deployment (and breeding) programmes.

A proof of concept ‘search’ for outstanding trees was undertaken. DNA fingerprinting work on several ‘exceptional trees’ is underway. This technique can be used to select genotypes that grow well on forest growers’ estates, informing their preference for certain parents to deploy to maximise forest productivity. Equally, the technique can be used to identify poor performers, removing them from deployment plans and thereby increasing forest performance.

Owing to the long-term nature of this research and ability to translate into value, it is expected to have a small contribution to valuations using lidar and real-data approaches, and on very young stands. The value of the approach will increase with time and will facilitate better site and genotype matching. By 2023 the estimated contribution to forestry = 1%, and the estimated long-term potential is up to 50%.

By 2023, the forestry industry, land owners, and central and regional government have adopted new tools, approaches and technologies developed to mitigate impacts from the increasing risk to New Zealand’s forests from pests (insects, pathogens, weeds), fire and wind in our changing environment (climate, trade and tourism), and to mitigate risks and take advantages of opportunities from climate change.

Scion completed an assessment of the challenges to catchment level that arise from climate change impacts. Key challenges were identified from the systems and the vulnerability analyses from which draft adaptation pathways were developed: integrated environmental planning, low carbon technologies, local empowerment, multi-level governance, social equity, sustainable lifestyles, resilient water management, education, rural development/local economies/circular economies, agriculture within limits, leadership.

Pre-testing and sensitivity analysis of up-scaled qPCR for detection and quantification of Phytophthora agathidicida (cause of kauri dieback) was completed in collaboration with Slipstream Automation.

Models to help biosecurity managers make informed decisions about optimal interventions and investment across prevention, surveillance, incursion response and pest management were developed and a first draft of the local biosecurity risk framework was presented for feedback from end-users at a workshop in late May.

In addition, an assessment of risk of biological control agents on non-target species model was developed and shown to EPA and DOC in June demonstrating the value of this approach.

A phone app to report suspect new forest pests and pathogens was developed and released in February. By April it had over 500 downloads. This software system has the potential to reduce MPI’s workload and improve biosecurity outcomes by screening out zero risk reports before they reach MPI.

Smoke modelling tools were used in the Nelson fire response and a Scion Rural Fire team member worked in Incident Command to assist with development of triggers that initiated or cancelled evacuations and returns, thus helping to reduce risk and deploy resources effectively.

A Pest Incursion Economic Calculator was developed and introduced for the industry to support fast decision making.

By 2023, the improved Forest Investment Framework has been used by at least five regional councils, forestry companies and Maori entities to develop landscape-level plans for new forests targeting high-value wood products as well as other ecosystem services.

A minimum viable product concept has been developed for the Forest Investment Framework. The future expansion and uptake of this concept will be driven by the outcome consultation with key client groups.

By 2023, Scion has provided tools, new biotech and genetic solutions, new plant material (e.g. germplasm) and competitive niche wood products that will increase the confidence of growers of Douglas-fir, eucalypts, cypresses, redwoods and indigenous species to increase plantings of these species by at least 50% over 2018 plantings.

As part of the MBIE-funded Speciality Wood Partnership Scion has:

  • evaluated a new structural product Optimised Engineered Lumber (OEL) on Eucalyptus nitens and Douglas-fir thinnings;
  • developed an LVL model linking log properties to LVL product requirements;
  • undertaken multiple novel drying trials on E. nitens that show improved results;
  • kept trees for trials in the nursery as well as genetics trials for Douglas-fir and Cupressus macrocarpa breeding programmes.

Scion initiated analysis of the Douglas-fir breeding programme using genomics with approximately 2,000 individuals genotyped. Scion used this information to analyse a provenance/progeny trial where the original provenances of the material are known and clearly identifiable, and this can be accounted for in the application of the technology and analytical approach. This knowledge will also be transferable to radiata pine and other species.

The EPA approved full release of an insect to control a major eucalypt pest. A release is planned for late summer 2020. Host specificity testing with another insect intended to control giant willow aphid was favourable and received unanimous stakeholder support for its release. An application was submitted to EPA, the result is pending.

Impact Area 3: Biobased manufacturing and products. Goal: To grow healthy, resilient forests that replace petrochemicals and non-sustainable materials with products from trees and other biomaterials.

By 2019, at least six new polymeric material products with renewable content have been developed to prototype stage using existing (e.g. extrusion, injection moulding) and emerging technologies (e.g. 3D-printing or electrospinning), and two of these prototypes have been incorporated into new product offerings by firms.

Five different bioplastic samples prepared at Scion were compression moulded to enable mechanical testing. The test results enabled Scion to identify potential prototype applications for these materials.

Scion undertook a large-scale electrospinning trial that provided enough lignin nanofibre for the printed electronics proof-of-concept work to be completed in collaboration with a large multinational organisation, which is currently assessing the material for use in its commercial applications.

We also worked with industry to produce biodegradable vine net clips. The net clip samples were produced at scale and field trialled by wine growers who provided positive feedback about product performance. Scion is continuing its commercialisation conversations with the industry partner concerned.

By 2019, two different genetically modified trees have been evaluated to determine their viability as alternative feedstocks to produce high-value chemicals and/or processability for fibre or bioenergy.

Two lignin modified lines were harvested from the field trial and are being processed to evaluate the impact of the modification in processing for fibre and sugar syrup production.

By 2019, Scion has identified, and reached national alignment, around the implementation of the New Zealand Biofuels Roadmap. Technology barriers, acceleration options and policy interventions have been identified. Large commercial projects have been scoped out for final definition.

The Biojet project presented a pre-feasibility level study to Ministers. Unfortunately, the high level of investment risk has meant that the commercial partners are not currently prepared to progress the project.

By 2020, Scion and commercial partner(s) have developed a viable and New Zealand-specific biorefinery business case including Sciondeveloped high-value bioproducts and cost-efficient technology platforms for commodity fibres and bioenergy, including criteria for new short-rotation forest trees systems.

Scion undertook short rotation forest analysis, based on high growth and high-density clones data identified from trialling in Rotoehu Forest. Early results suggest that high tree density can be achieved. The greater density will give more oven dry tonnes per hectare (rather than more cubic metres per hectare), which is highly desirable in a bioenergy forest.

By 2022, New Zealand has new industries using new highperformance products enabled by Scion-developed technologies (on-demand degradable plastics, green electronics, biobased composites, lignin products and new compounded materials containing biopolymers), using existing (e.g. extrusion, injection moulding) and emerging technologies (e.g. 3D-printing or electrospinning).

In 2018-19 Scion performed different extraction and analytical processes to derive high-value products from bark. Extractions were undertaken with a New Zealand-based commercial partner. Pre-treatment and processing conditions were refined at pilot-scale extraction and then applied in large-scale extraction. The trial produced >12 kg of waxy material as well as water-soluble extract material.

Also, Scion initiated a project attempting to develop high-value thermal conductive materials from nanocellullose extracted from New Zealand seaweeds. Staff visited the Australian Synchrotron where X-ray patterns (some 15,000 datasets) were processed. The seaweed-derived nanocrystals were shown to be significantly larger than those made from land plants (including commercial CNCs). It is believed that chemical pulping will allow for even larger crystals.

By 2023, Scion and commercial partner(s) have progressed the New Zealand-specific biorefinery business case to progress this to demonstration/pilot scale.

Scion’s five-year MBIE funded Bark Biorefinery programme started in October 2018. Already significant volumes of bark have been processed through our partners Pharmalink (Nelson, New Zealand) and Fraunhofer IGB (Leuna, Germany) delivering sizable amounts of polyphenols, polysaccharides, terpene and resin acids that are explored for industrial applications.

By 2023, Scion has demonstrated the feasibility of converting forest and other biobased materials through distributed and mobile processes into chemicals and biopolymers and has identified a group of interested industrial partners to progress one of the technologies to pilot/demonstration scale.

In pioneering research, we demonstrated the use of an extruder as a chemical reactor to modify sander dust for further use. This novel use of an extruder shows proof of concept for what is possible with mobile distributed manufacturing. To implement this technology, an extrusion set-up could be run by a wood processor or even a juice manufacturer as another way to use their resources. Alternatively, a mobile plant operator could move to the biomass resource as it becomes available, e.g. seasonal food processing.

By 2020, Scion has worked with Maori, and at least one Maori entity has included new biobased materials in their product portfolio.

With the appointment of the General Manager Maori Forestry Futures targets are now being reviewed.