This spring, PhD students and two PIs of the UPSC Research School of Forest Genetics, Biotechnology and Breeding visited different forest research organisations and forest companies in New Zealand and Australia. On their two weeks long trip they got an overview over the Australian forestry sector, and insights into national breeding and seed preservation programs. This was the third time the research school was organising an international excursion. Unfortunately, the additional visit to forestry sites in China had to be cancelled due to the start of the Corona pandemic.

”This trip was amazing, inspiring and a once-in-a-life-time-opportunity,” says Bodil Häggström, one of the students that joined the excursion. “One obvious difference when comparing this area to Sweden is of course the very different assemblage of species”, she explains further. But also “the much higher focus on using foreign species for wood production compared to Swedish forestry where native species are the most used”, was new and interesting information for her.

In New Zealand, the members of the research school visited two institutions – Scion and Timberlands limited. The governmental owned institute Scion is a located in Rotorua and is specialised in research, science and technology development for forest industry. Beside breeding programs, the group got insights into other research activities. Some of those clearly remembered of research conducted at UPSC, like whole genome sequencing of radiata pine, research on somatic embryogenesis or forest pathology.

Timberlands Limited, one of the big New Zealand forest companies working with forest management and operations works closely together with Scion but produces their own clones. The students visited a nursery outside of Rotorua that produces about 10 Million seedlings per year.

Confused assembling in redwoods at SCIONTe Ngae Nursery Timberlands NZ
Participants of the excursion gathering under Redwood trees from the Scion breeding program (left). A Timberland limited nursery outside of Rotorua (Photos: B. Häggström and MR. García-Gil)

The first Australian institution they visited was Tree Breeding Australia (TBA). TBA is the Australian national body that manages tree improvement programs. The original goal of the TBA is to create seed orchards and new breeding values for the Australian forestry industry. In their breeding arboreta, the students saw the production of new genotype seed material for forestry companies. The main species they work with are radiata pine and blue gum eucalyptus. 

Another Australian Institution, the research school group took a closer look at, was the Australian Tree Seed Centre (ATSC). The ATSC belongs to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and is one of the National Research Collections. ATSC is a collection and research centre for Australian native tree species and has been supplying quality tree seed to customers worldwide. ATSC not only has a big physical collection of seeds but also an extensive database with information about these seeds. The data can be used to track nationally and internationally exported tree material and also in worldwide studies on invasive species.

Straight rows eucalyptus TBAKoala in eucalypt TBA koala habitatlgTBbhNCdOg
Eucalyptus clones are planted in straight rows at a TBA plantage (photo left).  Eucalyptus is not only an important Australian tree species for forestry but also serves as habitat for Koalas (photo middle). In ATSC seed storage all seeds are stored in tin cans to keep them dry (photo right; Photos: B Häggström, MR García-Gil).