From fire risk to virtual reality, weed control and pests ... 13 new grower R&D projects worth $10m about to commence

From fire risk to virtual reality, weed control and pests ... 13 new grower R&D projects worth $10m about to commence

The FWPA Board has approved almost $2.2 million of funding for diverse forestry research initiatives, with a combined total project value of more than $10 million.

The Grower Research Advisory Committee (GRAC) recommended the projects, which were developed to address research priorities of high value to the industry, identified in FWPA’s recently completed forestry RD&E investment plans.

The projects, which were selected from an impressive initial list of 56 initial proposals, will address everything from biosecurity to genomics, and will serve to strengthen the Australian forestry industry over the long-term.

Forest growers are co-funding the projects, with matching funding from the Australian Government and a component of levy funds.

Proposals were evaluated in accordance with the committee’s review process, which included an online survey, recommendations by the GRAC Executive, and formal endorsement by the wider GRAC group. Once the list of 13 successful proposals had been compiled, the FWPA Board gave their final approval.

Below is an overview of each of these important industry research projects, which will commence in the coming weeks and months, and will run from one to five years.

Characterising and managing fire risks to plantations under changing climates

Fire risks in plantation regions under current and changing climates will be modelled and evaluated, to support evidence-based management to reduce fire risks to plantation and community assets over the coming decades.

Operational immersive visualisation and measurement of dense point cloud data in forest inventory

Progressing previous work in this area, this project will provide operational methods and workflows to improve the accessibility of virtual reality (VR) visualisation and measurement tools to forest growers.

Reducing the risk of myrtle rust strains entering Australia and the Pacific

An international collaborative approach will aim to limit the risk of new strains of myrtle rust arriving and establishing in the region, thereby reducing the threat of impact to the hardwood industry in Australia.

Mobile applications to support stakeholder identification and reporting of exotic pests

This project will develop and test a mobile application to aid with field identification and reporting of tree pests by non taxonomic experts including foresters, arborists, local councils and members of the public.

Developing exotic forest/tree pest surveillance capacity in high risk areas

By improving exotic forest/tree pest surveillance capability across Australia, this project aims to support early detection and mitigate the impact of pests on native forests, plantations and urban trees.

Innovation in value realisation through the supply chain and supply chain technology

This project will test the program structure of the Forest Operations Supply Chain Investment Plan, to help deliver on its key priorities. It will also demonstrate the program model for the delivery of an industry research, development, engagement, translation and training program.

Tools, systems and enabling genetic technologies for pines and eucalypts

Practical tools and systems will be developed to enable genomic research and tree improvement outputs to be integrated and used routinely in tree breeding and deployment operations. National databases for data, pedigree, genomic information and genomically enhanced genetic values will be supported.

Optimising productivity of hardwood plantations: yield gap analysis for eucalyptus globulus plantations in Western Australia and Victoria

By defining the potential yield of plantations, estimating the gap between potential and actual yield, and attributing parts of the gap to major limiting factors, this project will provide a framework for making decisions on the location of plantations and the improvement of yields due to silvicultural practices. These might include weed control, thinning and nutritional management.

Sirex biocontrol: cryptic nematode field strain prompts urgent review of program

Pinus radiata is Australia’s most valuable softwood resource, but it is extremely susceptible to mortality from sirex woodwasp, the most serious invasive softwood pest to enter the Southern Hemisphere. The project team will review available data for inoculation history, within and between regions, to analyse patterns associated with sirex parasitism rates and populations, linked to nematode strains.

Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative

The Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) was established in 2017. It is a partnership between the seven plant-based Research and Development Corporations (RDCs), Plant Health Australia and the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, working to coordinate investment in cross-sectoral biosecurity RD&E.

The PBRI supports the development of innovative tools, knowledge and capacity to be used across plant industries and regional communities in order to safeguard them from the consequences of pests entering and establishing in Australia.

The current PBRI collaboration contract expires this month. The new work will build on the foundations laid over the past three years, identifying cross-sector investment opportunities for biosecurity RD&E, and build capacity in a coordinated and strategic approach.

Development of fit for purpose silviculture linking plantation management and productivity to wood properties

This project will review current knowledge on silviculture and growth rates, which impact wood properties and the utility of soft- and hardwood logs. The work will identify all current knowledge, as well as any knowledge gaps to guide further research.

Development of a portfolio of alternative weed control strategies for use in plantations

Weed control is critical to the productivity and financial viability of plantations. This research piece will see the development of a hierarchy of options to inform field trials, as well as evidence-based responses to certification and social license concerns.

Next generation resource assessment and forecasting for Australian plantation forestry

The forecasting project will provide pathways for the Australian plantation forestry industry to cooperatively invest in remote sensing and resource modelling technologies and systems.

Jodie Mason, Forest Research Manager at FWPA, said the proposal evaluation process considered a range of factors.

“Criteria included how well each proposal addressed the research needs described in the investment plans, as well as the breadth of relevance and priority of the research across the industry,” Ms Mason said.

“The GRAC then refined the ‘short list’ to achieve the target spread across the broader research themes, for a diversified investment.”

Our acknowledgment

In the spirit of reconciliation, Forest & Wood Products Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia, and we acknowledge their connection to the land and their custodianship of Country and forests. We pay our respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our acknowledgment