New Genetic Technologies     

Conference presenter: Charleson Poovaiah, Scion

Genetic technology has evolved rapidly over the past few decades to the current capability of being able to edit specific genes within the DNA, which enables the adaptation of a particular trait. Gene editing has wide application and uptake across the primary production sector in some countries other than New Zealand.

Douglas-fir is an important plantation species in New Zealand, but its use is seriously constrained because it produces copious quantities of fertile, highly mobile seed, which germinate to create wildings (weed trees).  Scion researchers are in the process of developing gene editing technologies to create sterile Douglas-fir. Sterility genes have been identified in the Douglas-fir genome, gene editing has been applied, and the first potentially male-sterile seedlings are now growing in the lab.

Presentation:   New Genetic Technologies

The Radiata Pine Breeding Company

Conference presenter: Brent Guild, RPBC CEO

The Radiata Pine Breeding Company (RPBC) is a well-established part of radiata pine forestry in New Zealand. Its mission is “to breed elite genetic material, and provide knowledge, support and tools to continuously improve profitability for Australasian Radiata Pine forest owners.”

The company is currently in a re-building phase with a new CEO. It hopes to dispel a number of myths around the way it operates, and develop as a stable self-funded business.

Short-term aspirations: to become a fully self-funded business with a $2M turnover, undertaking collaborative research and managing an elite radiata pine breeding population.

Long-term aspirations:  to deliver maximum genetic gain via well characterised germplasm, as fast as possible, and at least cost.

Presentation:   RPBC – Brent Guild


1.  Genomics, genetic gain, and the importance of speed to market

Conference presenter: Heidi Dungey, Scion (first section of video)

Genetic improvement through the work of tree breeders has lifted productivity and profitability for forest growers over many decades. Conventional tree breeding is a slow process however: new genomic techniques can half the time at which selections can be made, tested, bulked up using modern propagation techniques, and then delivered to growers.

(FIG – genetics offers growers opportunity to improve P and P)

As well as speeding up the delivery of genetic gain, genomics enables greater overall gains to be made by focusing on key traits, such as growth and wood quality traits.

Scion is heavily involved in genomics programmes and in developing new tissue culture techniques which will further speed up delivery of improved genetic material to market.


2. Quantifying realised genetic gain for different traits

Conference presenter: John Moore, Scion  (second section of video)

New Zealand radiata pine growers are reaping the benefits of long-term trials established around the country from 1978 onwards. The trials are a valuable legacy, and have provided the data needed for scientists to evaluate the value of genetic gain, develop a number of models, and refine other tools such as the Forecaster forest management software.

(FIG – slide 18)

Outputs and conclusions made possible from this trial database include:

  • Genetic gain in volume growth has been quantified
    • volume growth increases by 1.67% per unit of GF Plus Growth
    • genetic gain has been incorporated into growth models
    • genetic gain can now be captured in forest valuations.
  • A model predicting wood density accounting for site, silviculture and genetics has been developed
    • wood density increases by 2.15 kg/m3 per unit of GF Plus Density
  • A model to predict acoustic properties of standing trees and logs using stiffness breeding values has been developed.

Scion’s new ‘Accelerator’ trials are the next generation of large-plot trials: many of the first generation have now been or will soon be harvested. The Accelerator trials will continue to provide data on proof of genetic gain, and are also being designed to incorporate a range of other long-term research.

Presentation:   What has Genetic Improvement delivered