Active genetic conservation and utilisation of native radiata pine germplasm
Maintaining genetic diversity and conserving forest genetic resources are critical to forest sustainability, ecosystem stability and species’ continued adaptation and survival. This project will help conserve a wide range of radiata pine genes for the next 50–60 years and beyond, safeguarding ‘wild’ genetic material from trees previously brought into Australia and New Zealand from the regions overseas where radiata pine originated. The project is of particular importance as the spread of pitch canker disease means no pine plants or seeds can be brought into Australia, which might genetically restrict future commercial plantations.
The project catalogued the existing radiata pine conservation stands. Seeds and cuttings from the conservation trials are being stored strategically for long-term conservation, while some genetic material is being used to establish second-generation conservation plantings at different sites in Australia and New Zealand to ensure long-term genetic security.
A comprehensive and large-scale genetic analysis of growth and wood quality traits revealed there is plenty of genetic variation in these populations. This provides a unique opportunity to broaden the genetic base of the current breeding populations, increase productivity and enable genetic adaptation to projected future environments (e.g. adaptation to climate change, pests and disease resistance). Superior trees are being archived for long-term ex situ (off site) gene conservation, as well as selected for current breeding populations.