Searching for better trees

State Forests success in cloning blue gum has gained worldwide attention, with a multi-national group of experts meeting in Grafton on Monday to study progress.

The group is part of a Cooperative Research Centre workshop on blue gum which will spend two days in Grafton before moving on to Mt Gambier in South Australia.

State Forests managing director Peter Duncan will open the workshop.

State Forests is already using the Grafton nursery to clone southern pine and eucalyptus species such as blackbutt.

The clones are cuttings taken from superior trees of the selected species which have been identified from 40 years of tree improvement research, resulting in identical seedlings displaying the best traits of insect resistance, wood quality and growth characteristics.

“We hope the work we are about to undertake with our commercial species will take State Forests Grafton nursery to the top of world practice in tree cloning,” Mr Duncan said.

“This method of tree propagation will ensure that trees planted from now on in State Forests will be from the best stock available.

“Those trees will grow on to become high quality sawlogs for the future of the sawmilling industry in Grafton, the North Coast and elsewhere in NSW.”

The world experts tour the nursery and other forestry operations on Tuesday.

From Grafton they will move on to Mt Gambier in South Australia where they will be looking at blue gum cloning research.

The Grafton workshop theme is “Benchmarking Clonal Propagation for the Blue Gum Plantation Industry”

”State Forests has been successful in cloning blue gum, even though it is a species that is not suited to much of NSW,” said the manager of the State Forests tree improvement program, Mr Michael Henson.

“Blue gum is grown in other parts of Australia for pulpwood, but State Forests of NSW concentrates mostly on developing high quality sawlogs in native forest and plantations.”

The workshop is an initiative of partners in the Commonwealth Research Centre for Sustainable Production Forestry, with additional financial support from the Innovation Access Program of the Australian Government Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources.

The objective of the workshop is to explore reasons that cloning technology in operational use elsewhere has not yet been adopted by the blue gum plantation industry in Australia, and to develop a strategy for fast-track evaluation and uptake.

A number of international experts including Dr Nuno Borralho, RAIZ, Portugal; Mr N England, Oji Forest Research, Chile; Mr Teotonio de Assis, Aracruz, Brazil; Dr Flic Blakeway, MONDI, South Africa, and Ms Rebeca Sanhueza, FAMASA, Chile, will assist with the workshop.

Mr Henson will be outlining what sub-tropical eucalypts will be grown where between now and the year 2020, and detailing the State Forests operation at Grafton nursery.

Media contact: Michael Henson on 0408 029 355

Workshop location: Grafton Agricultural Research and Advisory Station, Trenayr Road, Junction Hill, via Grafton, 8.30 am Monday, 8 March 2004.