The Case for Research
There are big opportunities for the forest industry to develop and become more competitive. However the step-change research needed depends on an increase in research funding from growers.
The NZ Forestry Science and Innovation Plan identifies the needs and opportunities. It calls for greater effort in three areas:
- Increased productivity and consistent wood quality (70-90% of funding)
- Sustainability (5-20% of funding)
- Operational performance (5-20%)
For example, through the use of new technologies – including endophytes, advanced genetic selection and potentially genomics – it should be possible to produce new planting stock within five years that will be much more resistant to foliar diseases and faster growing than the stock we are planting now.
Under-funding: the risks
As well as opportunities, the industry faces significant risks that are likely to become a reality if research is not conducted and results implemented. These include:
- Forestry becoming less competitive relative to other land uses, resulting in more forest land being converted to pasture
- Government research funding to forestry being greatly reduced and potentially lost forever
- Increasing biosecurity threats from existing and new foliar diseases causing increased productivity losses and threatening trade
- A growing number of environmental issues and costs.
What is needed?
The total funding for forest growing research at present is about $21 million a year. Of this, about $3 million is sourced from growers, with the balance of $18 million coming from the government.
At least $6 million of this $18 million is at risk because the government prefers to fund research for those industries which offer greater funding leverage. The flip side of this is that the forest industry may get more than $6 million if it can put up a compelling case and stump up a larger share.
To increase profitability, protect our forests from existing and new diseases, and ensure an ongoing licence to operate forest owners will need to invest in the order of $5 – $6 million a year. This is roughly double the current voluntary contribution funded by members of the FOA.
The majority of this sum will be funded by the levy. In addition, individual companies are expected to ‘top-up’ the funding of projects that are particularly relevant to their operations.
Grower funding from all sources can be leveraged with at least an equivalent amount of government funding. In some areas, such as biosecurity and the environment, greater leverage may apply.
The following are examples of achievements and potential benefits from investment in forest research and development. The way they are organised on the page matches the priority research areas in the NZ Forestry Science and Innovation Plan.
- Productivity and consistency – Breeding and genetics past performance
- Productivity and consistency – Genomics to speed the process
- Productivity and consistency – Genetic approaches – Finding the plus gene(s)
- Productivity and consistency – Endophytes for increased productivity
- Productivity and consistency – GE sterile and disease resistant trees (Scion)
- Productivity and consistency – Fighting red needlecast
- Productivity and consistency – Retaining market access - methyl bromide reduction (STIMBR/Scion)
- Productivity and consistency – Sustainable pest management – eucalypt tortoise beetle
- Productivity and consistency – Identifying the good wood (FFR/Scion)
- Sustainability – Resource assessment using remote sensing (FFR/Scion)
- Sustainability – Increased productivity within environmental limits (FFR/Scion)
- Sustainability – Growing and harvesting productive Douglas-fir
- Sustainability – Erosion risk modelling
- Sustainability – Reducing the use of herbicides in forestry (Scion)
- Sustainability – Strategic planning tools – forest investment finder
- Operational performance – Increasing the use of grapple extraction on steep slopes (FFR)
- Operational performance – Mechanised steep slope felling and bunching (FFR)
- Operational performance – Maximising net value recovery