Forest Growers Research Conference – 16th October 2019

Session 1 : Protecting Our Future

Session 1 Introduction – Protecting our Future

Session Chair:  Mike Baker, Hancocks Forest Management

Healthy Trees, Healthy Future / Phytophthora / Needle Disease (RNC)

Presentations:     23 HTHF NDS _Group Presentation_Scion

When, where and how we manage pine needle diseases

Presenter: Lindsay Bulman, Scion

Needle diseases have been a threat to New Zealand’s forest growers for many decades. Nectria flute canker, dothistroma, and cyclaneusma have all been brought under control thanks to joint efforts by researchers and growers.

Red needle cast (RNC) was first detected in 2005, and research has been on-going since 2008. Initially the main effort was around mitigating the risk to overseas trade, but more recently researchers have been working on RNC under the Healthy Trees, Healthy Forests (HTHF) programme.

RNC is one of a suite of Phytophthora diseases affecting a range of species including kauri and apples. The HTHF focus has been on the fundamental micro-biology of host/pathogen interactions, as well as novel ways to predict, detect and manage the disease.

Modelling RNC using machine learning

Presenter: Alan Tan, Scion

Machine learning has the potential to increase understanding of the key drivers of red needle cast.  A vast amount of data i associated with RNC s available, and this has enabled a machine learning approach.

Objectives of machine learning approach:

  • Understanding key drivers for RNC
  • Developing a model for predicting RNC – to forecast RNC severity, and inform decisions for disease management.

An area-based model is being developed, the aim of which is to predict RNC outbreaks and hence enable early preventative control measures.  More data is needed, but a prototype model is operational.

Operational control of RNC with copper

Presenter: Lindsay Bulman, Scion

Copper sprays have been proven to reduce the severity of RNC, and further research into the use of copper sprays included:

  • Investigating optimal timing for copper application
  • Comparing different disease assessment methods: two ground-based methods and two aerial imagery techniques.

The research was hindered by low incidence of RNC at the time: however the following conclusions were reached:

  • Further evidence that copper reduces RNC severity
  • No effect of spray timing detected
  • Aerial imagery proved to be a more efficient method for assessing RNC than ground-based methods. Capturing oblique imagery using UAVs proved promising.

Management of diseases in the medium term: breeding for resistance

Presenter: Natalie Graham, Scion

Breeding for disease resistance presents a much better long-term option than treating the symptoms once they appear.

The Scion HTHF team have been part of a major project to save kauri trees from kauri dieback.  Major seed collections in 2018 and 2019 will provide a huge genetic base for future breeding and research.  A genetic basis for radiata pine resistance to RNC has also been confirmed, indicating that breeding for resistance will be possible. Breeders believe there is good potential to select for resistance to multiple needle diseases, not just RNC.

The recently formed FGR Tissue Culture Partnership provides the prospect of distributing disease resistant germplasm to industry much faster than would have been possible by traditional breeding routes.

Management of tree diseases in the longer term using genomic tools

Presenter: Rebecca McDougal, Scion

Pathogen genomics can help manage forest diseases by:

  • Increasing understanding the genetic diversity of pathogen populations
  • Increasing understanding of disease origins, including pathways of introduction
  • Providing clear taxonomic information – valuable for biosecurity
  • Enabling improved screening for resistance
  • Underpinning the development of diagnostic methods.

Genomics research is revealing far more about the complexity of Phytophthora than was known before. Ultimately understanding what is going on at the gene level is likely to be the key to better disease prevention and control.

Achievements of the HTHF programme

Presenter: Lindsay Bulman, Scion

We have increased understanding of Phytophthora:  biosecurity and forest management have been and will be improved as a result. Major HTHF achievements over the past six years include:

  • Copper can treat red needle cast
  • Genotypes resistant to red needle cast identified
  • Key genes associated with Phytophthora infection found – faster, high throughput screening methods
  • Environmental drivers of disease determined – able to predict outbreaks
  • Physiological impact of disease understood
  • First to repeat-sequence genomes of eight Phytophthora, advancing pathogen research, analytical capacity and comparative genomic analyses.

The profile of New Zealand’s Phytophthora research has been raised through the HTHF, and a network of domestic and international researchers has been developed.

New approaches to pest, weed and disease management from fundamental research

Presenter: Travis Glare, Lincoln University, Christchurch

Presentation:   24 Potential for biocontrol of pathogens_Travis Glare

The Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln focuses on “the sustainable reduction and prevention of damage to our land-based plant ecosystems from pests, weeds and diseases”.

The Centre is heavily involved in education and training of the next generation of scientists, and collaborates with many organisations within New Zealand and overseas.  Research covers a broad spectrum of topics, and seeks to answer some big questions.

Potential for biocontrol of pathogens using Trichoderma

Presenter: Helen Whelan, Lincoln University, Christchurch

Presentation:  25 Potential Biocontrol of Pathegins_Helen Whelan

Trichoderma are naturally occurring fungi found in roots and soil. Certain Trichoderma have been shown to have beneficial effects on plant growth and stress tolerance, and offer a non-chemical alternative for disease control and growth promotion.

Eight large-scale trials were established in 2018 across New Zealand, testing two Trichoderma strains identified as promising in an earlier trial series. Early results in terms of growth response are encouraging.

Other Trichoderma research underway includes:

  • Testing the benefits of Trichoderma on hard-to-root radiata clones
  • Identifying Trichoderma that are adapted to warm and cold climates
  • Trichoderma for promoting Douglas-fir growth and health
  • Seeking canker resistance in cypresses

Mitigating disease in established trees.

Session 1 Panel Discussion

Session Chair:  Mike Baker, Hancock Forest Management

Session 2 : Opportunities from Genetic Improvement

Session 2 Introduction

Session Chair:  Dean Witehira, Timberlands

RPBC breeding matters

Presenter: Brent Guild, Radiata Pine Breeding Company

Presentation27 Radiata Pine Breeding company developments_Brent Guild

The Radiata Pine Breeding Company is New Zealand’s only specialist radiata pine breeder, and occupies a central position in the industry breeding supply chain, both in New Zealand and Australia.

Over the past 12 months, the RPBC has made some major achievements: the company also has some exciting plans for the future and has recently added a third full-time team member and launched a new website. All in all, the RPBC is in good shape!

Tissue culture for the 21st Century

Presenter:  Jana Krajnakova, Scion

Presentation:  28(1) Accelerating deployment of improved genetics_ Jana Krajnakova

A major collaborative effort is now underway to speed up the radiata pine breeding cycle by developing and implementing high-tech automated tissue culture techniques.

The new Tissue Culture Partnership will use bioreactors, fluidics systems and automation to shorten the breeding cycle from 24 years to 9 years, leveraging off both domestic and international capability. The potential benefit is estimated at $1.3billion per annum; the platform developed for radiata pine will also in theory be applicable to other tree species.

Forestry miniplugs and automation

Presenter: Craig Ford, Scion

Presentation:  29(2) Accelerating deployment of improved genetics_Craig Ford

Miniplugs are containers for seedlings which are much smaller than those normally used (10-33ml compared to 60-500ml conventional plugs). They are in use in other countries, but have yet to be introduced in the New Zealand forest industry.

Miniplugs are considered to have good potential for high-tech, high-volume systems of seedling production including tissue culture systems – and given the development of New Zealnd’s new Tissue Culture Partnership, the time is right to investigate their applicability to radiata pine systems in New Zealand.

Specialty species breeding

Presenter: Toby Stovold

Presentation:  30 Breeding to improve specialty species_Toby Stovold

Specialty species breeding work is undertaken by Scion as part of FGR’s Specialty Wood Products Research Partnership (SWP). The focus is on three main species/species groups:

  • Douglas-fir
  • Eucalypts – non-durable
  • Cypress and cypress hybrids.

Breeding programmes in all these species have a relatively long history but have waxed and waned over the years.  Current programmes are all relatively limited, and include work to improve growth and wood quality (Douglas-fir and Eucalyptus nitens), disease resistance (cypresses), and browsing tolerance (E. nitens).

A new series of cypress clones has also recently been released thanks to work by Scion’s tree breeders.

Breeding for browsing tolerance in durable eucalypt species

Presenter: Tara Murray, University of Canterbury, Christchurch

Presentation:  31 Breeding for browsing tolerance in durable eucalypt_Tara Murray

The NZ Dryland Forests Initiative (NZDFI) leads breeding research work on durable eucalypt species. Research at the University of Canterbury is focusing on identifying families of selected eucalypt species (Eucalyptus bosistoana and E.globoidea) which are most tolerant to insect pest browsing – be this by moths, sawflies, or chewing insects such as beetles.

Families identified as tolerant to browsing will then be incorporated into the on-going NZDFI breeding programme. Results to date suggest that individual trees within families may prove the key to disease tolerance; also that the original provenance of trees may be a significant factor.

Session 3 Panel Discussion

Session Chair:  Dean Witehira, Timberlands

Session 3 : Overcoming Challenges

Session 3  Introduction

Session Chair:  Angus Gordon, FFA Representative

Gene editing to reduce Douglas-fir wilding spread

Presenter: Glen Thorlby, Scion

Presentation:   33 Gene editing to reduce d.fir_Glenn Thorlby

Douglas-fir presents a major wildings threat in some regions, and research at Scion to develop a male-sterile plant using gene editing has been successful.

Gene editing involves manipulating existing genes, rather than adding any new genetic material.  New Zealand classifies material produced by gene editing as ‘genetically modified’. Many regulatory hoops exist before the material can be properly tested in the open before possible release.

A survey of the public showed that few people are totally opposed genetic technologies, but that knowledge of genetic technologies is generally low. The challenge is to educate people before an informed debate can be held on revision of the HSNO Act, no longer seen as fit for purpose.

Managing harvesting residues on steep slopes

Presenter: Keith Raymond, Forest Growers Research Ltd

Presentation:  34 Managing Harvest Residues_Keith Raymond

The forest industry recently instigated two projects to mitigate risks associated with harvest debris on steep slopes.

  1. Reducing tree breakage during felling

Two different felling techniques – a ‘dangle head’ harvester and a ‘fixed head’  feller buncher were compared to investigate whether having greater control over felling direction and rate of tree fall reduced the amount of debris generated at felling.

The results showed conclusively that the fixed head machine caused less stem breakage and harvested more of the total length of trees than the dangle head. The results give harvesting contractors useful information when considering choice of equipment.

  1. Improved extraction of residues using a slash grapple

Removing slash from steep slopes near streams is particularly difficult and dangerous. A second project involved the design and testing of a helicopter-mounted slash grapple. Once built the grapple was tested in steep harvesting country in the Gisborne region.

The conclusion reached was that, while this is an expensive option, a helicopter-mounted grapple is effective, especially when working in fresh slash and with little log material present.

The next project is to design a slash grapple that can be operated from a cable hauler.

Extreme fire research

Presenter: Tara Strand, Scion

Presentation:  35 Fire_Tara Strand

Scion’s Rural Fire Research Group is part of an international team undertaking research into ‘extreme fire’ – that is fire that can’t be fought directly. New Zealand is lucky compared to other countries in that, while fire risk is increasing as the climate warms, it does have more time to prepare for extreme fire than some.

Work includes developing real-time fire and smoke monitoring tools, which have been validated in recent fires, and researching a new theory of how fires a spread – this will help understanding and prediction of extreme fire behaviour.

Phytosanitary treatments: Addressing the challenges

Presenter: Don Hammond, STIMBR

Presentation:  36 Log Fumagation_Don Hammond

With only about a year to go before methyl bromide is banned as a fumigant, and despite a large research effort, there is still no ready-to-use alternative.

Some $750 million of annual log trade is under threat, including all logs destined for India.

Options in the short term include:

  • Continuing methyl bromide use – reassessment of the decision made to ban it in 2010 – which may include lower rates of application
  • Registration of EDN – an alternative treatment. This is in the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency and has been for over two years.
  • Negotiations with major trading partners are continuing.

In the longer term, non-fumigant research offers another alternative (e.g. joule heating).

New wood products to improve returns for growers

Presenter: Marco Lausberg, Forest Growers Research Ltd

Presentation:  37 New wood products to improve returns for growers_Marco Lausberg

The Specialty Wood Products Research Partnership (SWP) is funding a number of studies in an attempt to develop new products and increase market opportunities for specialty timbers, so as to increase investor confidence.

Work includes processing studies:

  • Durable eucalypt peeling for veneers
  • Cypress sawing – young unpruned trees for joinery products
  • Douglas-fir cross-laminated timber (CLT) testing
  • nitens flooring product options explored.

Thermal modification of E. nitens, Douglas-fir and cypress timber has also been tested to see whether timber qualities such as durability and stability are enhanced by heating.

Session 3 Panel Discussion

Session Chair:  Angus Gordon, FFA Representative

Session 4 : Precision Forestry Innovations

Session 3 : Introduction

Session Chair:  Jason Syme, Rayonier/Matariki Forests

Inventory predictions using radar, LiDAR and satellite data

Presenter: Ellen Mae Leonardo, Scion

Presentation:  39 Inventory Predictions using radar_ Ellen Leonardo

Forest growers have a choice of remote sensing tools available to assist with forest inventory. The challenge is to identify which provides adequate data at a cost-effective price.

Research compared LiDAR, Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), and satellite point cloud data (PCD) in Geraldine Forest, North Canterbury.

Recommendations from the research

  • Forest managers should look at their needs and all the alternatives when considering what remote sensing products to invest in
  • High precision inventories should use LiDAR, or satellite PCD if there is an existing digital terrain model (DTM)
  • Areas where the resource is scattered and it is costly to acquire LiDAR should consider use of satellite PCD and radar.
  • Large remote and scattered areas with persistent cloud cover and where high precision is not required could consider the use of radar.

Employing mensuration and tree physiology to estimate site productivity

Presenter: Euan Mason, University of Canterbury

Presentation:  40 New Hybrid Growth Model _ Euan Mason

A new tool to predict site productivity at high resolution has been developed at the University of Canterbury. By combining a suite of GIS-linked physical data such as climate data, digital terrain and topographic information, the model accurately predicts site index, and hence radiata pine growth.

Data is available in high-resolution raster layers of productivity across forest landscape, and opens up the possibility of a much more precise approach to forest management.

Insect and pathogen detection and control

Presenter: Tara Strand, Scion

Presentation:  41 Insect and Pathogen Detection_Tara Strand

The Urban Toolkit Programme has drawn to a close – a major achievement of this programme was development of the ‘cyborg’ – a device with the capacity to detect specific insects.

Work on the cyborg technology is continuing in collaboration with French and Canadian scientists. One area of interest is developing machine learning tools to speed up the processing of data captured by the cyborg; another is looking at detection of plant diseases, which may be identifiable by the volatile organic compounds emitted by plants when they are stressed by a pathogen.

Session 4 Panel Discussion

Session Chair:  Jason Syme, Rayonier/Matariki Forests

Forest Growers Research Conference 2019 – Conclusion