Tree Breeding

Members join the Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata) and Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) breeding programs to access improved genetic material for use in their plantations. As the breeding programs are undertaken on a cooperative basis, each Member contributes resources to fund activities and provides land for testing new varieties. An annual budget is approved by Members for each program and the relationship between Members and TBA is governed by a formal Constitution and Bylaws. An elected Board of Directors manages strategic and governance direction.  

TBA undertakes all the operational activities necessary to improve the productivity of Radiata Pine and Blue Gum on behalf of Members. The benefits of Membership include:

1.   High and Competitive Return on Investment -
      Investment through TBA membership fees has the potential to return 10-14% for radiata pine and 17-28% for blue gum.

2.   Best Practice Tree Improvement Programs -
      TBA tree improvement programs are progressive, independently reviewed and recognised as best practice with economic rather than biological objectives

3.   Cooperative Industry-Wide Programs -
      Access to pooled, broad based and well characterised genetic material delivers greater gains and efficiencies.

4.   Industry-Leading Data Analysis - 
      Web-based data analysis tools leverage off proven animal and plant breeding systems.

5.   Access to Highly Specialised Skills -
      TBA is a hub for highly-skilled staff that contribute to national research capacity.

6.   Continuing Education and Training -
      TBA staff partner with members, universities and research agencies to innovate, generate efficiencies, and train breeders.

7.   All Benefits Returned to Members -
      TBA is member managed and largely industry funded not-for-profit registered Research Service Provider.

Members access TBA genetic material and TBA intellectual property (including breeding values and technical information) to improve plantation productivity. TBA does not produce seed or plants for deployment and Members can set this up themselves or use a third party provider. A royalty is charged on TBA genetic material sold to non-members and they are required to sign a non-propagation agreement to protect the significant investment Members have provided to improve performance.

Genetics influences the growth of trees

The performance of trees in plantations is determined by the genetic makeup of the trees and the environmental conditions under which the trees are grown. Site selection (soil type and climate) and management practices (silvicultural regimes) will significantly impact on the growing environment and influence the productivity and quality of the forestry resource.  Improved genetics can increase both profitability and quality, but without the need for additional silvicultural inputs, further increasing profits made from the sale and processing of improved forest product.
Productivity and profitability of trees grown in plantations will be maximised only by using the best genetics and silviculture in combination. Further, due to genotype by environment interaction, the best genotypes in one environment are not necessarily the best in another production region. For example, genotypes best suited to high rainfall areas may perform poorly relative to other genotypes under drier and more marginal conditions. As a consequence TBA breeds genotypes specifically suited to the different growing environments and end product uses.

Breeding better genetics

TBA uses natural breeding methods to breed new trees by mating (cross-pollinating) superior females (flowers) with elite male (pollen) parents to produce higher performance progeny (seed) with improved growth rates and superior wood quality. Progeny of elite crosses are rigorously tested in many genetics trials which are planted across temperate Australia in order to identify elite trees with potential for improved productivity.
Individual tree data is collected on growth rates, branching characteristics, stem straightness and form, wood quality and fibre properties, and resistances to pests and diseases. This information is analysed on a national basis and used to select the best trees for use in each region.

Identifying the best genetics for a particular region

TBA uses the leading edge TREEPLAN genetic evaluation system for ranking trees on genetic merit. The TREEPLAN system  can use all performance data and pedigree information available to produce robust genetic values for all production regions in Australia. The TREEPLAN system of genetic evaluation has dramatically changed the way TBA tests and identifies elite material for Industry use, ensuring Members have the opportunity to capture gain without delay. The systematic approach enables TBA to undertake breeding activities every year and update TREEPLAN breeding values regularly to assist in identifying the best material for use in industry deployment programs.

Improving the traits that influence profit margins

Traditionally tree breeders have focussed on improving characters associated with growth and tree form, and more recently wood quality. The objective of TBA is to breed trees which improve the financial returns to its member companies. In Blue Gum the target is to improve profits from growing trees for use in pulp and paper. For Radiata Pine, the objective is to improve the value of the harvested product for use in producing solid wood products.
Each tree in the breeding population for Radiata Pine has breeding values for a range of growth, form and wood quality traits including wood stiffness, which are combined in an economic index to reflect the commercial value of its genes. The performance of a tree is affected by the sum of all its genes and interactions. Placing too much emphasis on growth while ignoring wood quality can reduce the overall value of the forest resource.
The primary breeding objective for Blue Gum includes volume growth, wood basic density and pulp yield.

Delivering the best genetics to industry

Access to elite genetic material (seed and clones) at commercially competitive prices is needed. TBA provides scions for grafting by TBA member companies and seedEnergy Pty Ltd into seed orchards to produce commercial quantities of genetically improved seed. Quality genetics is also available to non-members of the TBA, but subject to payment of royalties when purchasing plants.
TBA is also developing and testing Radiata Pine clones for commercial potential under Australian conditions. TBA is a not-for-profit Association. It is more cost effective for forestry growers to be a member of the cooperative programs and share the operational cost of breeding with other companies.