Visited Scion at Fieldays 2022 and want to know more?

Forestry at the heart of transitioning Aotearoa to a low-carbon, circular bioeconomy

Visited Scion at Fieldays and want to know more? You can find more information on our work, and a person to contact, right here.

The Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan, released by the New Zealand Government in November 2022, proposes initiatives aimed at increasing our onshore wood processing capacity and capability, maximising the value of our wood, and driving innovation through developing new industries, products, technologies and markets – both domestic and international.

Scion is the Crown Research Institute delivering science, technology and thought leadership that underpin these initiatives and is leading a circular bioeconomy approach, from growing renewable resources to new materials, energy, and manufacturing methods.

Innovations and initiatives developed at Scion have become more important than ever in creating our low-carbon future. Through genuine and strategic relationships with mana whenua and other innovative partnerships, we are making a difference to New Zealand’s well-being, economy, and environment.

Our stand at Fieldays within the Forestry Hub showcased some of these innovations and initiatives. You can read more about these below.

Precision forestry - making every tree count

Making every tree count requires a paradigm shift towards precision. The forestry industry will need to continue the transition from highly manual systems and processes to digitisation, automation, mechanisation and the ability to draw insights from big data. Increasingly, foresters will be able to remotely and precisely apply management decisions to individual trees.

Advances in remote sensing technologies, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and computing power are helping make precision forestry happen. Scion uses UAVs to collect LiDAR data, multi-spectral imagery and hi-definition video. The pathways and systems that we are developing for data processing will translate data into information forest managers can use to manage commercial forest estates remotely.

There are significant opportunities for industry partners to work with Scion in identifying, testing, and evaluating these technologies.

As one example, Scion has been working with Hawke’s Bay forestry company Pan Pac Forest Products to develop and test a range of precision forestry technologies to make informed decisions on pruning individual trees and planning where to plant.

Further reading

For more information contact

Robin Hartley

The richness of soil

Forest soils are among the most complex ecosystems on earth – and soils under radiata pine forests in New Zealand are no exception.

If you visited our stand at Fieldays, you may have spoken to one of our people about the richness of the soil under radiata pine and the microbiome that exists around the root of a tree.

Microorganisms have a huge impact on how trees can access water and nutrients and they play a role in how carbon is stored. Understanding the tree microbiome can help us understand how pine trees cope with climate change.

Scion’s Puruki Experimental Forest in the Central North Island is one of the most productive radiata pine plantations in New Zealand. Why? Its soil is rich in nutrients.

Pine growth rates at Puruki are nearly double what is being achieved at New Zealand’s largest planted forest, Kaingaroa Forest, where radiata pine makes up 95 per cent of the forest’s 205,000 hectares.

Essentially the soils are the same but with Puruki having a greater nutrient capital. If fertiliser was applied to the forest to improve growth rather than to address a deficit, the potential exists to increase pine growth rates in Kaingaroa.

Further reading

For more information contact

Peter Clinton, Simeon Smaill, Steve A Wakelin

Carbon solutions for your farm

Planting trees in non-forested landscapes increases the carbon stock in that landscape. Trees absorb CO2 from the air as they grow and use the carbon to form wood, foliage and roots. The rate at which CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere depends on the growth rate of the trees and it varies with temperature, rainfall and soil nutrients. Tree species such as radiata pine, coast redwood and eucalypts generally grow faster than native species, storing more carbon in a shorter time.

Scion scientists have computer-modelled redwood planting as an alternative to radiata pine forests.

At Fieldays, a graphic compared the predicted volume of carbon sequestered per ha per year of radiata pine and redwood over 30, 40 and 50 years.

Computer modelling studies by Scion have shown that at 30 years, radiata pine can store more carbon than redwood. At 40 years, on favourable sites, redwood was predicted to store more carbon. And at 50 years, the carbon storage advantage of redwood is even greater and continues to remain high for hundreds of years.

Further reading

For more information contact

Mike Watt

Advanced tissue culture

Exotic and indigenous tree species need to be produced at scale and deployed into our forests as fast as possible if New Zealand is to meet its zero carbon commitments by 2050. This means ensuring a high rate of germination success is critical.

Scion is using advanced tissue culture techniques to help multiply the best trees by the tens of thousands and to shorten the interval to get a new radiata pine genotype into commercial production from 20 years to about nine years.

Using next-generation technology including machine learning tools for germination success prediction, Scion is transforming the way somatic embryos are matured, selected, and germinated.

An algorithm quantifies the morphological (shape) characteristics of embryos and uses these measurements to predict germination success. This effectively measures significantly more morphological features than can be detected by the human eye resulting in a high degree of germination success.

This pivotal work represents an industry transformation and will ensure we can get more elite trees into nurseries and out into the forest to meet market demand.

Further reading

For more information contact

Grant Evans

Precision DNA Selection

Planting the right tree in the right place for the right purpose starts with knowing your tree. While one pine seedling may look identical to its neighbour, subtle differences in their genetic makeup may have big implications in the future. One tree may be better able to handle drought stress or insect attack, while another may have the wood density and stiffness that our building industry demands.

The panel shown here, developed by the Radiata Pine Breeding Company and Scion contains a wealth of DNA knowledge – it can tell us the pedigree of the tree and which variations of genes are associated with traits of importance to foresters. This can help us create more resilient and profitable future forests.

Māori partnerships

At Scion, we work with whānau, hapū, iwi – including kaitiaki of the whenua and Māori forestry and farming expertise - to find solutions that will benefit the forests of tomorrow.

This includes methods to reduce the carbon impact from farming, new ways of viewing and valuing the ngahere (forest), preserving fresh water, and growing and using taonga species such as tōtara for future generations.

Our solutions draw on both Te Ao Māori – the Māori worldview – and Scion’s science and technological knowledge.

The signing of a collaboration agreement between Scion and the Māori Carbon Collective in November 2021 is a recent example of working together to achieve a joint objective. The agreement means Māori landowners will have new opportunities to engage with scientists to create intergenerational pathways for whenua and whānau.

Scion is trialling the planting of a mix of radiata pine and native trees on whenua for carbon farming, where eventually the native species will take over to become fully native again.

A kaupapa introduced in early 2022 aims to develop a transition strategy to shift from exotic pine to an indigenous forest system through rangahau and research, wānanga, and indigenous forestry trial sites. Led by Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust and supported by Scion, the project is significant because it not only considers kaupapa Māori approach, but it is also unique to Ngāti Hine Mātauranga through rangahau philosophy that incorporates Te tū o Ngāti Hine, kaitiakitanga, mahi tahi and He Whenua Hua, He Tangata Ora.

Further reading

For more information contact

Shontelle Bishara

Te Whare Nui o Tuteata in Rotorua

Scion’s new three-storey building, Te Whare Nui o Tuteata, is a carbon-neutral build thanks to its ability to store the equivalent of 454 tonnes of carbon dioxide in its wood. That is comparable to taking 200 cars off the road each year.

Te Whare Nui o Tuteata is the biggest three-story timber diagrid structure anywhere in the world.

A 3D-printed scale model of Te Whare Nui o Tuteata in Rotorua was on display at Fieldays. It shows the intricate diagrid structure that makes up this impressive building.

The diagonal grid pattern of the building allows plenty of light to pour in and is extremely strong. It will rock but not break in an earthquake.

The V-shaped diagrid displayed at Fieldays demonstrated the strength of the diagrid components. This diagrid was tested at Scion, with the apex portion subjected to 45 tonnes of downward pressure and then pulled upward by a 31.5-tonne force.

The building showcases what is possible to do with sustainably sourced wood from New Zealand's forests. Approximately 550m3 of timber was used in the building. Our forests can grow that amount of wood every 35 minutes.

Our scientists are finding new ways to grow resilient forests from indigenous and exotic species. Meanwhile, Scion technology is creating timber products never dreamt of before.

Further reading

These shoes were tanned with pine bark

The New Zealand forestry estate produces two million tonnes of pine bark a year, most of which goes to waste. When pine trees are felled for export, the bark must be removed for biosecurity reasons. The bark is discarded, with just a fraction used for low-value applications such as garden mulch.

Now, thanks to some clever chemistry, we have extracted tannins from pine bark to tan and create a beautiful pair of boots. Not only this, but in the future, bark biorefineries may create a range of high-value chemicals and materials such as cosmetics and nutraceuticals.

At Fieldays, the world’s only pair of leather shoes tanned using radiata pine bark tannins were on display.

These have been in the making for two years. Using Scion’s pine bark tannin, Dunedin domestic shoe manufacturer, McKinlays Footwear, created this first proof of concept in late 2021 and noted that the bark-tanned leather cut and handled in the factory as well as any chrome tannage.

There is still a way to go, but locally grown tannins could one day compete with other tannin sources, reducing our dependence on imports and providing exciting new opportunities.

Furthermore, the fact that the tannins are produced locally and build towards a sustainable circular bioeconomy, adds value.

Further reading

For more information contact

Stefan Hill

Vine clips

Every year the New Zealand wine industry uses up to 30 million vine clips to hold protective nets over ripening grapes, keeping birds and other pests away. After six to eight weeks the nets are removed, and the clips fall to litter the ground and contribute to microplastic pollution.

A collaborative partnership between science, industry and end users has resulted in the biodegradable PolyNatural® Terrain vine clip.

At our Fieldays stand, you would have been able to touch and feel our winning vine clips made from waste created from processing wood and also from grapes, which was part of a collaborative effort between Scion and EPL.

Scion biomaterial experts saw an opportunity to combat the environmental issue of vine clips falling off the vines and contributing to microplastic pollution or extra labour to collect and dispose of them.

They designed a clip made from biodegradable thermoplastic. Once the clips fall on the ground, they naturally break down before a new wine-producing season comes around.

Further reading

For more information contact

Marc Gaugler

Table from a log

Bringing to life precision forestry, we have the potential to better match trees to their ultimate purpose.
Made by No Boundaries Furniture, a table made from a log was on display. The contents of this simple macrocarpa log demonstrate the application of selection, design, and form to create a much larger piece of furniture. The log is the home of the nested table components. There is a contrast between the compact table components within the log and the table which envelops a much greater space.

See more

Trubridge Cascade Light

Showcasing New Zealand design, the cascade pendant light system, on display at Fieldays, is made from a composite of sustainable bio-based plastics and harakeke (flax) developed by Scion scientists.

The lamps were designed by David Trubridge who is a recognised leader in sustainable design for his high-end lighting that is produced with minimal environmental impact.

These lamps show what’s possible. As we bring our innovative biomaterials to life, we find more uses for natural materials growing in our forests and elsewhere.

Further reading

For more information contact

Marie-Joo Le Guen