Breeding and Genetics – Past performance


Research in radiata pine tree breeding started in the early 1950s, and it has remained a major ingredient in the growth and development of commercial plantation forestry in New Zealand.

Radiata pine is now entering its third generation of breeding and still has considerable improvement ahead.


Over the last 50 years of breeding, stem acceptability rose from 45% to over 80%, and volume growth increased some 35%.

In 1997, the GF Plus scheme followed to include other traits of interest such as wood density and corewood stiffness.

Over the last 10 years, one of the most significant achievements of tree breeding has been re-capture of density lost from much of the forest estate as a result of decisions to pursue rapid growth and the production of clearwood. Losses have now effectively been reversed. Increased density will contribute to strength, stiffness, and stability.


In 2001, the Radiata Pine Breeding Company was established and shareholders then contributed some $900,000 p.a. by way of cash and royalty income to match similar contribution from FRST.

FOA member contributions, including share of royalty income, are approximately $650,000 p.a. The total RPBC Research and Operations annual budget, including all overheads, is $1.8 million.

Financial Benefits

Analyses of the financial benefits arising principally from the improvements in growth and form made over the period to 2000 show that genetics was responsible for most gain up to the 1990s, but since then improvements have resulted from an equal contribution of genetics and management practices.

In 2010, improvements were estimated to have a capitalised value of $4.294 billion across the entire estate (equivalent to an annual value of $344 million). Stands planted after 2000 will be some 31% more productive than unimproved stock. Conventional genetics can add a further 15% gain by 2050, which will double to 30% if genomic selection becomes integrated into the radiata pine breeding programme.

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