Genetic technology for tropical Eucalyptus plantations

Friday 11 May 2018

 
An innovative partnership has been announced between Australian genetics technology firm Gondwana Genomics and timberland investment manager New Forests, seeking to deploy genetic technology to boost productivity in tropical eucalyptus plantations. Following successful demonstrations, the two companies are collaborating on the world’s first large-scale investment in tropical eucalyptus Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), aiming to deliver significant gains in tree plantation productivity and resilience at two New Forests’ investments in Southeast Asia.

New Forests is an Australia-headquartered investment manager responsible for more than AUD 4.5 billion in assets under management across 915,000 hectares of forests and land in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and the United States. New Forests’ Singapore office manages the company’s tropical forestry investments and operations in Southeast Asia.

Gondwana Genomics is a privately held Australian company using pioneering genetic methods to make next generation tree breeding tools commercially available. The company holds an exclusive license to its MAS technology, which uses targeted DNA sequencing to identify specific genetic traits, such as disease resistance, strength, density, higher pulp yield, and faster growth.

The joint initiative will deploy MAS technology at two of New Forests’ investments from its Tropical Asia Forest Fund. Acacia Forest Industries of Sabah, Malaysia and Mekong Timber Plantations of central Laos will work together with Gondwana Genomics to execute a multi-year program of MAS tree breeding. The program targets improvements in growth, yield, and wood fibre characteristics while also seeking to enhance resilience to pests and disease.

The collaboration aims to bring forward targeted growth improvements, resulting in faster growing plantations that achieve higher levels of performance in as little as three to five years, as compared to original targets of five to eight years.

“We are proud that New Forests has encouraged the adoption of our MAS technology at its Southeast Asian timber plantations,” said Robert Southerton, Managing Director at Gondwana Genomics. “As an environmentally responsible and proven technology, MAS is attractive to companies like New Forests who are seeking to enhance commercial returns from plantations but who also consider environmental factors and want healthy, genetically diverse plantations. Our MAS technology helps these plantations break through traditionally long breeding cycles and instead find ways to rapidly maximise yield and plantation quality.”

MAS technology is also known as smart breeding as it enables tree breeders to select for desirable traits and accurately predict the performance of a tree using a DNA test. This MAS approach does not require genetic modification but rather uses genetic sequencing to more accurately and rapidly identify traits in a structured breeding program.

MAS technology enables highly targeted cross-breeding, with further tests able to determine whether offspring are inheriting the right genes from each parent, thereby speeding up the development of the next generation of elite trees. In commercial application, this can result in rapidly improving plantation quality to meet market and operational demands.

Source: New Forests

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