Forestry research growth

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Forestry research growth

South Australia’s forest industry is set to receive additional investment from the State Government, with $450,000 going to Tree Breeding Australia (TBA) to support the construction of a new research facility in Mount Gambier.

The funding is being provided on a matched dollar-for-dollar basis for the new facility on Kilsby Road – the location of the national arboreta and gene banks for radiata pine and Tasmanian bluegum.

Founded in 1983, TBA is a not-for-profit organisation that has consolidated the resources and individual research programs of industry stakeholders for a national approach to improving the genetics of Australia’s two main commercially harvested tree species, radiata pine (softwood) and blue gum (hardwood).

The almost $1m facility will support more effective gene conservation services and national tree improvement programs for plantation and farm forestry.

It will include a laboratory with controlled environment rooms and worker amenities for continuing genetics research and subsequent breeding of even more productive plantation trees.

The facility will be designed for pollen processing, seed handling, processing wood core samples, DNA extraction and storage as well as soil and water quality testing.

It will also house IT systems supporting national and international tree improvement and research databases with secure online access.

The new TBA research facility will complement the Forestry Centre of Excellence (FCoE).

Its primary objective is genetically derived improvement of forestry industry productivity through development and propagation of new varieties that are higher yielding and more resistant to disease and insects than previous generations of trees.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Clare Scriven said the State Government was currently delivering over $20m worth of forestry election commitments in the South East and this latest funding commitment will ensure South Australia is at the centre for national forestry genetics research.

“The new facility will provide these scientists and students better access to infield genetic resources for a wide range of research projects, education and training,” she said.

“This new world class facility will confirm Mount Gambier as Australia’s pre-eminent commercial forestry centre with national and international scientific significance.

“It will enable first class gene research for the continuing strength of the nation’s forestry industry as an even more efficient and resilient producer of fibre and construction timber.

“Forestry is a significant contributor to the South Australian economy and the State Government is committed to its continuing development.

FUTURE PLANS: Minister for Forest Industries Clare Scriven and Tree Breeding Australia general manager Dr Tony McRae on the site that will house the new purpose built and dedicated research facility at Kilsby Road.

Tree Breeding Australia general manager Dr Tony McRae welcomed the announcement by Minister Scriven to support the development of a purpose-built research facility.

“The new infrastructure will support tree breeding and gene conservation efforts as part of national tree improvement programs for pines and eucalypts,” he said.

“The purpose of the facility is to turbo charge the tree improvement programs and lift the current rate of genetic gain to more than 1% per annum, cumulative.

“This means the new varieties of trees used to establish regional plantations will within a decade grow 10% faster and have better wood quality than those planted now and ultimately more logs of better quality for processing in the region’s mills.

“The national cooperative programs are supported by all our local forestry companies – delivering efficiencies.

“The facility will complement the Forestry Centre of Excellence. It will bring much needed research capability in genetics to the region – to tackle the big issue associated with climate change, enable industry expansion and combat new pests and diseases.

“Better genetics and new varieties of trees will be crucial to future productivity and plantation resilience.”

South Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Nathan Paine also welcomed the announcement.

“Today, the State Government and Tree Breeding Australia (TBA) announced a jointly funded $900,000 nationally significant, purpose built and dedicated research facility at Kilsby Road, Mount Gambier, that is set to genetically improve plantation trees to increase productivity and protect against biosecurity threats,” he said.

“TBA manages the national cooperative tree improvement programs for radiata pine (softwood) and blue gum (hardwood) plantations and provides scientific expertise and genetic valuation on crops to ensure our foresters are planting the best genetically blessed trees, which in the long-term increases forestry productivity and the supply of wood-fibre to both domestic and international markets.

“Growing plantations is not just about planting a tree, watering it, and watching it grow – plantation health and resilience is a major priority for the forestry sector and Tree Breeding Australia, and without TBA’s expertise and valuable input to improve tree genetics, our forest and timber industries would be years behind in innovation and adaption.

“Over the last two years Minister Scriven and the South Australian Government have invested significantly into the state’s forestry sector, particularly through the establishment of a Forestry Centre of Excellence, the development of a Wood Fibre and Timber Industry Master Plan, and now the funding needed to deliver Tree Breeding Australia’s research facility expansion.

“Mount Gambier is nationally recognised as a softwood manufacturing hub and is now fast becoming a premier hub of forestry innovation, and we are so pleased to have the Government, industry and stakeholders supporting the future innovation of the forest and timber industries.”

The new TBA facility is planned to be completed by mid-2025.

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