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August, 2015

Making better use of forest soil microbes

Soil microbes can have a significant positive impact on forest performance, but we have few reliable options to enhance the benefits they can provide. A substantial new trial series has been established to address this gap.

Growing Confidence in Forestry’s Future (GCFF) Research Programme

Soil fungi and bacteria can substantially improve the health and growth of plants through various pathways, including influencing plant nutrient and water uptake, increasing stress tolerance and changing the growth behaviour of plants. Various commercial products have been released that claim to either introduce new “super” microbes that will improve plant performance, or stimulate better activity from the existing soil microbes. However, there is very little research available to prove the reliability of these claims. To better understand the extent to which soil microbes can be stimulated to improve forest productivity, a new trial series has been established at five sites around New Zealand to determine if the beneficial activity of soil microbes (both fungi and bacteria) can be enhanced at an operational scale, using plantation health and growth over several years as relevant measurements of effect. This trial will determine if several treatments, proven to be promising in controlled conditions, can produce results that are cost-effective at a forest stand scale. This research will also examine the wider environmental implications of the treatments to ensure they are sustainable, and do not create other problems. Results from this trial series will be released to the forestry sector at regular intervals over the next decade. If you wish to know more about this research, please contact

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