Young trees within a Eucalyptus research plantation.

Eucalyptus research plantation.

Identifying markers for a sustainable plantation industry

The Hottest 100 project identified genetic markers which can assist tree breeders develop trees with better growth and wood properties in specific climate zones.

  • 3 September 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011

Hunting for genetic markers

In collaboration with Gunns Ltd and Forestry Tasmania and supported by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), a CSIRO Plant Industry research team is searching for naturally occurring genetic markers which influence wood quality traits in eucalypts.

'Hottest 100'

The recently completed 'Hottest 100' project examined genes and their variants (alleles) from three Shining Gum (Eucalyptus nitens) research plantations. Approximately 100 genes, known to be involved in the synthesis of wood were tested in this study.

'With just six markers out of possibly several dozen we have shown that we can increase pulp yield by over two per cent and growth rate by 10 per cent.'
Dr Simon Southerton, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO

Analysis of over 500 genetic variants or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified in these 100 genes revealed 11 SNPs that showed significant positive effects on kraft pulp yield across the three Shining Gum populations.

Trees with six out of the 11 markers have over two per cent higher pulp yield accompanied by a 10 per cent increase in growth.

'This will translate into a substantial increase in plantation productivity as millions of tonnes of pulp are produced globally each year from eucalypt plantations. Less land and resources will be required to produce the same amount of pulp', says Dr Simon Southerton, Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO Plant Industry.

'With just six markers out of possibly several dozen we have shown that we can increase pulp yield by over two per and growth rate by 10 per cent.'

A more sustainable industry

This research will substantially increase the productivity and sustainability of plantation forestry.

Identifying trees with the right genetic markers to use in traditional breeding processes is an important tool for tree breeders; accelerating their ability to breed high pulp yield and fast growing trees.

With trees that grow faster and produce more pulp the timber industry can potentially use less land, fuel and resources, lessening their impact on the environment.

'Blue Gum Genomics'

Dr. Simon Southerton and his team received funding in November 2010 to expand the search for genetic markers to improve the productivity and sustainability of plantation forestry.

The much larger Blue Gum Genomics project will screen over 1000 genes in Australia’s major plantation eucalypts in the hope of finding many more markers responsible for superior wood traits.

Read more about Dr Simon Southerton, who is currently leading this research at CSIRO Plant Industry.