Meeting our science and innovation goals - Impact Area 2

ia2iconHigh-value timber manufacturing and products. To grow healthy, resilient forests that produce trees for high-value manufacture into products that capture an increasing share of the global high-end market for timber.
  • Key performance indicators

    By 2020, Scion will have implemented new genomic screening tools to characterise the underlying genetic traits for the Radiata Pine Breeding Company (RPBC) elite germplasms and other production germplasm with the goal of identifying desirable tree genetics and the associated improvement in deployment of these genetic traits.

  • Achievements

    The RPBC/Scion-developed radiata pine SNP Chip was used to gather genotyping data from 20,000 trees to identify the real pedigree, and we reduced inconsistencies to <5 per cent which is a great result.

    A retrospective assessment of the accuracy of genomic selection across populations, families and trial series (a first study at this scale for any forest tree) was completed. Preliminary results suggest that both wood density and tree diameter can be predicted across populations.

    We determined that the predictive ability for tree diameter in the cloned elites series was nearly doubled with a genomics-corrected pedigree. This means that for some populations, incorporating genomic relationships will significantly enhance both pedigree and breeding value accuracies.

    Maps produced from our linkage mapping study will be a valuable resource for applications including the selection of marker panels for genomic studies and de novo whole genome assembly.

  • By 2020, 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.

  • The 2020 National Forest Ecosystem Services Forum was postponed from May 2020 to December 2020 owing to COVID-19. The full value of planted forests will be presented at this forum, but the focus will be on the quantification of water related ecosystem services and carbon sequestration to align with the forum theme “Planted forests, climate change, water and people connections”.

    The full value of planted forests was quantified and valued using the refined Forest Investment Framework and results were presented at two conferences: IUFRO World Congress, October 2019, Brazil, and later that month at the NZ Forest Growers Conference in Wellington.

  • By 2020, 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 forest owners and the many small Farm Forestry Association members.

  • After six years the forestry industry’s flagship research programme “Growing confidence in forestry’s future” (GCFF) was completed. A key outcome of the programme was a fundamental shift towards precision forestry. More precise management decisions are being made: sensor technologies are providing newly available phenotypic data; the right fertilisers are being applied to add the best value with lower environmental impact; industry and researchers are working together towards common goals. Confidence has grown as forest growing companies now know that 60 years of managing trees on their sites is not impacting their long-term productive capacity. Forests are more productive and resource efficient, providing the raw material for value-add processing. Forest growers and policy makers now have a better basis to make strategic decisions around investment and forest policy underpinning the Government’s goals of “right tree, right place, right purpose”.

    The relationship between industry and researchers has strengthened over the past six years, as the benefits of sustained fundamental research are being realised through regular interaction. The GCFF programme was replaced with a new programme focused on resilient forests, which is supported by government’s Strategic Science Investment Funding provided by MBIE and by Forest Growers Research. The level of industry support increased to $2.6 million per annum.

    A legacy of the GCFF programme is the new “Forest Flows” MBIE Endeavour-funded programme. It stems from a 2017 GCFF workshop on forestry and water-related issues that identified key issues facing the forest growing sector.

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

  • Scion developed integrated land use models, maps and reports for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council that will enhance decision making for afforestation on erodible landscapes.

    The project aimed to inform landowners of forestry options for their land and to guide investment decisions by the council. Information is provided on (1) landscapes that are suitable for commercial forestry versus landscapes that should be retired (e.g. plant and leave), (2) which tree species or forest systems have potential to be established across a landscape, and (3) a calculation of not only timber values from a plantation, but also an estimate of non-timber values (e.g. avoidance of erosion or biodiversity).

    The work was undertaken with PF Olsen, AgFirst, and Fresh Perspective Insight.

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

  • Scion joined with Te Arawa Primary Sector (TAPS) to identify, integrate and evaluate opportunities for adding value to the food and fibre produced on land they administer in the Bay of Plenty. Central to this ongoing collaboration is the role of wood and wood byproducts to generate regional manufacturing opportunities.

  • By 2021, new fundamental knowledge is developed around wood natural durability, wood permeability and treatability for both radiata and non-radiata species. This new knowledge will be then be used in targeted wood modification, durability and drying solutions.

  • A new method was implemented to extract the cellulose/hemicellulose matrix from wood while maintaining the wood three-dimensional structure. The delignified substrate will be used to develop innovative material from wood by re-composing the cellulose/hemicellulose matrix with resins and biopolymers.

    A new theory of surface tension was proposed to explain collapse in wood during drying.

    A Patent Cooperation Treaty was filed for one of Scion’s wood modification technologies in September 2019. We continued to work with a European wood modification company to deliver this technology.

    A domestic company is trialling our Thru-Colour technology and evaluating interior applications for this technology in its international markets.

  • 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.

  • Research for a review paper in preparation showed that without an integrated circular city approach, a focus on one individual activity area (like waste reduction, energy efficiency, food production, pollution) can impinge on another area’s ability to succeed. Most circular city approaches around the world tend to focus on individual activities, which while useful do not provide a complete view on how to achieve a truly circular city where everything needs to work together from resources, economies, social and other systems.

  • 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.

  • Forest growers typically apply granular fertiliser, primarily nitrogen-based products, to address nutrient deficiencies. New Scion research demonstrated that less fertiliser is applied with better plant uptake via foliar application. Experimental rates as low as 16 kg N ha-¹ vs traditional application rates of 200 kg N ha-¹ have shown promising economic and environmental outcomes.

    The importance of previous land use on soil properties and forest productivity was highlighted in a national study into the drivers of site productivity. After adjusting for the effects of climate, site productivity was found to be negatively related to the soil C/N ratio and positively related to the size of the soil organic matter pool. This resulted in a 20 per cent gain in productivity, commonly known as the ‘farm effect’. These findings add to the knowledge of soil and climate drivers of radiata pine productivity.

    Phenotyping extends beyond the study of growth characteristics. We examined the variation in nitrogen source preference of different radiata pine clones in situ. Some of the clones we tested showed positive growth responses to an organic nitrogen fertiliser while others only showed a growth response to inorganic nitrogen fertiliser, suggesting that specific clones could be selected for planting in nitrogen-sensitive areas.

    Using new DUALEM technology to remotely assess soil physical properties, we quantified the interaction between microsite, genotype, nitrogen fertiliser and climate, and identified specific genotypes more sensitive to drier soil conditions. This ability to rapidly map forest soil physical properties over a large area can help account for previously unexplained variation in tree performance due to differences in soil properties.

    New insights into real-time patterns of tree growth and water use will help us better understand and prepare for the impacts of future climate change. We have combined data from an extensive, low-cost network of environmental and sap-flow sensors with the DUALEM map of soil physical properties across one of the large forest accelerator trials, to show that some genotypes use significantly less water than others with minimal impact on growth.

  • 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.

  • A Lucid interactive key to identify all indigenous and most common exotic myrtle species was developed with Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. This MPI-funded work provided a field tool to support myrtle rust management.

    Scion, as part of the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) collaboration, started research for the "Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital” initiative. Our aim was to test the effectiveness of eight insect trap designs to support insect surveillance programmes at seaports and other high-risk points of entry.

    To better support eradication programmes, machine learning options for processing electroantennogram data from a prototype for gypsy moth were promising.

    Lagrangian coherent structures (atmospheric ‘rivers’) successfully predicted movement of smoke and insects across the Tasman.

    Long-term disease monitoring identified key seasonal weather variables driving red needle cast outbreaks. Combining ground-based monitoring with high-resolution satellite imagery allowed an investigation into wider landscape drivers. Preliminary results suggest greater disease severity at sites on slopes with south-facing aspects. A modelling framework was developed to incorporate this data into epidemiological and growth impact models that can be scaled from the tree to the forest.

    Scion worked with forest nurseries to characterise populations of oomycete pathogens in soil and roots of Pinus radiata using high throughput DNA sequencing. The data will help understand the movement of pathogens between seed orchards, nurseries and forests. In addition, differentiating populations of viable and non-viable oomycetes present in nursery soils was made possible using environmental RNA, resulting in a better indicator of biosecurity risk.

    Gorse scrub burns at Rakaia Gorge, Canterbury, were successfully completed in March, as the second phase of testing the new convective fire spread theory.

    Kāuta: He hononga mo te tangata manaaki (Traditional hearths: Bringing people together”) is a mātauranga Māori project developing engineering design requirements for a contemporary kāuta (traditional open, internal/external fireplaces used for cooking and heating on marae and/or papakainga). This project engaged Māori, scientists and regulatory agencies, resulting in skills transfer, scientists learning Māori culture and gaining cultural knowledge of how to engage Māori in scientific projects.
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  • 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 per cent over 2018 plantings.

  • Key data from project trials in selective harvesting of farm-tōtara, along with milling and drying trials, demonstrated the operational and environmental viability of producing high quality farm-tōtara timber. Business and financial models, and market feedback, indicated promising and sustainable business opportunities from this resource. Next steps and recommendations will appear in the final report due August 2020. The two-year project received good publicity across print, radio and television media outlets over its duration.

    The invasive eucalyptus variegated beetle Paropsisterna variicollis is creating significant defoliation in eucalyptus plantations, especially those with ground-durable timber properties being developed by NZ Drylands Initiative and those with short fibre used at a mill. Via a collaboration between molecular researchers and overseas entomologists we found that the New Zealand beetle was unique, but most similar to one shared between Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. This research paves the way for biocontrol of this pest in the future and resulted in its name change to Paropsisterna cloelia.

  • Ongoing: New technologies such as automation, robotics, sensors, new digital technology have been implemented in the cities/buildings/products/processing and forest growing value chains, demonstrating improved efficiency, cost reduction, improved safety, and better living and working environments.

  • Sensors that detect the presence of the fire front in a vegetation fire were developed and successfully demonstrated at Scion’s experimental burns. The sensors can use a satellite or terrestrial radio network and can remotely activate water sprinklers to protect valuable assets (buildings, infrastructure) in the path of the fire.

    Early work with Forest Growers Research on the “Forestry work in the modern age” Primary Growth Partnership developed a preliminary supply chain model that simulates a new automated harvesting system. The programme is currently working to demonstrate improved efficiencies and economic benefits of the new system.

    Functionality of Scion’s tree-to-tree robot was improved with the addition of a working electric chainsaw. The chainsaw-armed robot successfully demonstrated cutting 15 cm diameter stems. Our robot was presented as an example of the silviculture future at the 52nd International Symposium on Forestry Mechanization, Hungary.

    The AI ‘seedling detection using deep learning’ project identified that the use of convolutional neural network may be a powerful tool for mapping seedlings, having been demonstrated to detect individual nursery seedlings with an accuracy of 91 per cent.

    Beyond visual line of sight technologies (for drone operations) were identified to be of most benefit to large forest companies. The technologies have a few gaps to overcome, which are in the control and communication links and the detect and avoid systems.

    Emesent Hovermap™ laser scanning technology was successfully evaluated for its applicability for research and operations. We found that the data captured by the technology was of superior quality and qualified it for research use.

    Data issues in 3D scans of forests are now addressed with our development of state-of-the-art deep learning techniques.

    The Gates Foundation Toilet Challenge Phase 2 was completed and successfully demonstrated the potential role of wet oxidation technology into a low cost, off-grid re-invented toilet. Scion was invited into the next phase of the project, led by Georgia Tech and collaborating with world-class institutes around the world, culminating with a presentation by Scion staff to Bill Gates.

  • Ongoing: Support forest growing, wood products and building industries to grow and develop by addressing domestic/international standards, regulations and market specifications.

  • Our commercial testing services exceeded our commercial target by 30 per cent and provided significant benefit to the wood and fibre sectors, and our engagement with the wood durability sector showed dramatic growth.

    Progress was made on the three New Zealand timber building standards NZS3602, NZS3603 and NZS3640, which after many years have now been through the final committee vote. With a few modifications and approval from the NZ Standards Approval Board these standards now will be published. Work continues on the Australia/NZ Standards - AS/NZS1604 and AS/NZS1605.

    Our Bioenergy Team delivered eight commercial contracts mainly focusing on biomass availability and costs, and processing options for companies, government departments and regional development agencies.