Hardwood Breeding (Eucalypts)

Developing and deploying genetically improved planting stock remains one of the most effective single means of improving yield, reducing crop risk and obtaining more value from markets.  Eucalypt tree improvement has been a key focus of the ICFR’s research for many years, specifically on breeding of the main commercial sub-tropical and temperate species into first domesticated generations. This work has largely been completed and published.

The current suite of Eucalypt Tree Improvement projects is focussed on Site-species interaction, Tree improvement in Alternative Eucalypt species, Eucalypt Hybrid research, Eucalypt Clone x Site Interaction, and the development of enabling technologies to support Seed Orchard Management and Frost Screening.

Research Projects

Tree improvement in Eucalyptus badjensis

Eucalyptus badjensis was identified as a promising alternative temperate eucalypt species in ICFR site-species interaction trials during the 1990s. In addition to superior growth and frost tolerance, E. badjensis has good pulping properties. A 1st generation (F1) of breeding has been completed at the ICFR, and selections of elite individuals have been made in the 1st series and grafted into Clonal Seed Orchards (CSOs).

Site Species Interaction: Northern sub-tropical Zululand

The Zululand coastal plain is an important commercial plantation forestry region, with approximately 20% of the total managed timber production area in the region being classed as dry. These dry areas are recognised as lower productivity sites and pose higher drought risk, with current operational planting choices being limited. Shifts with respect to factors such as climate, weather, insect pests, diseases and market requirements, support the establishment of a new generation of site-taxa interaction trials in this region.

Testing of Corymbia hybrids

The Zululand coastal plain of South Africa is an important commercial plantation forestry region, with approximately 20% of the total managed timber production area in the region being classed as dry. These dry areas are recognised as lower productivity sites and pose higher drought risk, with current operational planting choices being limited. The plantation forestry environment in the region continues to undergo shifts with respect to factors such as climate, weather, insect pests, diseases and market requirements.

Development of new Corymbia hybrids

The Zululand coastal plain of South Africa is an important commercial plantation forestry region, with approximately 20% of the total managed timber production area in the region being classed as dry. These dry areas are recognised as lower productivity sites and pose higher drought risk, with current operational planting choices being limited. The plantation forestry environment in the region continues to undergo shifts with respect to factors such as climate, weather, insect pests, diseases and market requirements.

Expanding the Coymbia torelliana genetic base

The Zululand coastal plain of South Africa is an important commercial plantation forestry region, with approximately 20% of the total managed timber production area in the region being classed as dry. These dry areas are recognised as lower productivity sites and pose higher drought risk, with current operational planting choices being limited. The plantation forestry environment in the region continues to undergo shifts with respect to factors such as climate, weather, insect pests, diseases and market requirements.

Eucalypt Hybrid Consortium

Tree farmers in South Africa, typically with less than 1000 ha of trees and many with much smaller planted areas, represent about a quarter of the total industrial wood plantation resource in the country. Their requirements differ from larger corporate grower-processor businesses in that they need to access material best suited meet their specific needs that will give the highest available yield, mitigate risk specific to their farm and produce wood acceptable by different end-users.  

Eucalyptus grandis x macarthurii hybrid research

Eucalyptus hybrids are developed for three main reasons; to combine desired traits of two species, to exploit hybrid vigour, and to increase adaptability of a eucalypt species to areas which are marginal for the parent species. This project aims to assess Eucalyptus grandis x E. macarthurii, E. grandis x E. nitens and E. grandis x E. urophylla hybrid material for one of the ICFR members in South Africa and Swaziland.

Enabling Technologies: Elite Clonal Seed Orchard Management

For several of the temperate eucalypts important to commercial plantation forestry in South Africa, production of sufficient seed from improved orchards is a major constraint to deploying genetic gain. An improved understanding of their reproductive biology and how this can be managed in seed orchards is required to improve the consistency, quantity and quality of the forestry seed produced for the industry.