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Eucalyptus nitens breeding plan update 2020 (SSIF - Scion aligned funding)

By Mari Suontama, Toby Stovold, Jaroslav Klapste and Heidi Dungey, July 2020.

Download SWP-T104 (pdf)

Executive summary

Eucalyptus nitens breeding has a long tradition in commercial forestry in New Zealand. It is nowadays the most important Eucalyptus species in the country, and as a fast-growing species of good form, it has the potential to offer even greater opportunities to tree growers than currently is the case. The latest breeding plan update following the update in 2016 (Suontama et al. 2016) addressed the importance of developing this species towards solid wood production and consequently, proposed genetic research to gauge possibilities to improve these traits by breeding.

Recent genetics research showed good prospects for the genetic improvement of solid wood traits. Selections based on these studies have been made to the Specialty Wood Products (SWP) members’ production seed-orchards. Additional selections will form a breeding archive and the basis for a new breeding population. These selections are proposed to be undertaken across three progeny trials in Southland (Keens Block, Fortification Road and Howdens Block) in this update to the breeding plan. Volume, wood quality, form and adaptability are all proposed as breeding objectives in this updated breeding plan. Selections at Keens Block will especially focus on improvement of wood quality whilst selections at Howdens Block (a subset of families) will be used to identify genotypes which have a better resistance to defoliating leaf beetles (Paropsis charybdis). Genetic diversity will be maintained by selecting at least 100 families, preferably 150 families based on estimated BLUP breeding values. Progeny from these selections will be planted for testing across two to three sites, if possible two in the South Island and one in the North Island.

The proof-of-concept genomic selection study undertaken in 2015 indicated that using markers gave considerably improved breeding value accuracies than pedigree-only based models. In addition, a business case developed to compare three different breeding scenarios, showed that forest growers will benefit of genomic selections through a predicted $7 million increase in the net present value compared with traditional breeding. It is therefore strongly recommended that the breeding of E. nitens take advantage of this opportunity through the application of genomic technologies in breeding in the future. Expansion of the measurements and genotyping to ensure more robust prediction models will be done by sampling additional genotypes at a second site, including phenotyping more for solid wood properties, effectively doubling the amount of genotyped individuals in the current population.

Essential operational actions in the breeding programme to target the breeding objectives and for implementation of this breeding strategy, as well as supporting genetic research are listed in this report.

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