New “Growing Confidence in Forestry's Future” Research Programme Launched

This ambitious programme, aiming to double forest productivity, was launched by Scion researchers to the research scientists and industry representatives in Rotorua on 10 – 11 June with a field trip on the 12th. Land is our industry's key resource and forest growers must compete for this land against the pastoral sector. This sector is investing heavily in innovation to improve returns per hectare to growers which results in higher prices for land. Unless the forest industry innovates and finds ways to generate higher returns from each hectare of land used for commercial forestry then the sector risks not achieving its fair share of land use and potentially facing a declining national commercial forest estate.

But the forest industry must not follow the dairy sector and pursue productivity gains without regard to the consequences of intensification as maintaining the sector's environmental credentials is important for continued access to key markets.

The forest industry's Science and Innovation Plan has a target to double productivity whilst at the same time improving the quality of wood harvested. The new Forest Growers Levy Trust supports this priority and has allocated $1.6 million per year, or almost half of its research budget, to contribute to this $5.1 million per year programme that will run for six years. It is a large programme with around 50 researchers involved. Scion is leading the research programme but is working closely with a number of local and overseas scientists from other organisations to bring the best team together to focus on this high priority project for forest growers.

The aim of the programme is to target points in the value chain where foresters can make interventions to increase productivity and value per hectare. This will be in the existing forest resource through interventions such as targeted fertiliser treatments or through using advanced remote sensing technology to identify superior trees across the forest estate. When this information is combined with information on the individual tree attributes such as genetic source, soils, elevation, rainfall and stand management history, foresters will be able to better understand how these factors interact to affect productivity and wood quality.

Forest owners and levy payers will engage with the researchers through the FOA/FFA Forest Research Committee and a Technical Committee. A series of technical cluster groups will also be formed with a specific focus on key components of the research programme. These groups will help guide the delivery of the programme outputs to industry and be industry champions to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved.