2018 Forest Growers Research Awards Just Announced in Tauranga

17 October 2018

The Forest Growers Research Awards were announced last night in Tauranga. They have been awarded each year since 2011 to recognise outstanding achievements in forest growing research.

Quality science is a foundation of the forest industry and began 100 years ago with the first experimental plantings of introduced species for commercial wood production to replace New Zealand’s dwindling resource of native timbers.

Six awards have been made in 2018.

Research Award for Communication and Sector Engagement

Paul Millen from the Drylands Forest Initiative is the recipient of this award in 2018. DFI is a public/private research venture established 10 years ago between the University of Canterbury, Proseed, the Marlborough Research Centre and a number of vineyard and powerline companies.

The Drylands Forest Initiative was formed to promote the growing of durable eucalypt species in the dry east coast regions of the North and South Islands. The primary objective is growing naturally durable hardwood posts and timbers for vineyards which are experiencing issues with CCA treated radiata posts and power line companies which have difficulty sourcing durable hardwood material from traditional overseas sources.

Paul has been responsible for sector engagement with a wide range of parties from land owners, farmers, regional councils, members of FOA and FFA and is regularly involved in extension activities with these groups. With the government’s one billion trees programme Te Uru Rakau has been added to this list.

As a result of this enthusiasm the work of the Drylands Forest Initiative, and the potential for growing alternative species for high value niche markets, has a high profile. Seed has been sourced from overseas. Almost 1,000ha of trial plantings have been established for screening. There is a supporting research programme screening for durability, growth and insect browsing tolerance.

See a feature on Paul’s work with dryland eucalypts in Episode 6 of Forest Call;

Communication and Sector Engagement: Paul Millen - “I appreciate the support from everyone here and in the wider industry. I’d like to thank people for listening to me! The One Billion Trees programme is a huge opportunity for us, and I’m really excited about what the future holds for the NZ Dryland Forests Initiative. We have big plans.”

Research Award for Innovation that Enhances Sector Value

Simeon Smaill, a scientist with Scion based in Christchurch is the recipient of this award

Simeon has spent the past five years (at least) investigating the potential of novel methods for improving the growth and vitality of radiata pine. He has worked with forest nurseries to develop systems for producing tree seedlings using reduced input of fertilisers and fungicides, which inhibit beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. This not only reduces the cost of seedling production, but also the potential to lessen environmental impacts. He has shown that the gains made in the nursery continue for years after the seedlings were planted out in the forest.

Simeon has also championed the development of the nutrient balance model, Nu Balm, which will provide forest growers with better information about the nutrient demands of their forests and thus help them to determine when to apply additional nutrients.

In addition, he is engaging with the owners and developers of Overseer, the standard nutrient model used across the agricultural sector, so forestry is accurately represented in these decision support systems. This will enable forestry to be treated more fairly in nutrient management policy decisions.

See a feature on Simeon’s work with mycorrhiza in Episode 10 of Forest Call;

Innovation that enhances sector value: Simeon Smaill - “I am just really appreciative of the recognition, and for the support I have received over many years from the industry sector I work with. Their support enables me to do the research I want to do, and achieve the results I have achieved. I honestly can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

Research Award for Science of International Quality

This award was presented to a team comprising Jessica Kerr, Brooke O’Connor and Steve Pawson from Scion in Christchurch for their world leading research in the Urban Battlefield Biosecurity project. This project began in 2015/16 to develop new tools for dealing with biosecurity incursions in built up areas.

One highly novel project was to create an “insect cyborg” to improve the efficiency and speed of insect detection during an eradication campaign. This project may sound like science fiction but, in just 3 years, the team has developed a world first, tiny, light weight and mobile electroantennogram – an insect antennae combined with an electric circuit that senses miniscule quantities of insect pheromones. The device is called a “cyborg” or “cybernetic organism” i.e. it combines organic and biomechatronic parts into a single device.

This has been implemented on a UAV (drone) for rapid and widespread scanning of areas where insect pests may have spread and is especially useful for detecting insects in built up areas, cliffs, gullies and can also be used to detect the source of insect incursions.

This emerging technology has the potential to cover in one day what would take two weeks to cover by foot using passive grid trapping techniques. It’s vital to detect pest insects quickly before the population has built up and spread over a wide area.

This is world leading research and we are pleased to be able to recognise the team who have been involved in the work.

See a feature on the team’s work in Episode 9 of Forest Call;

Science of international quality: Jessica Kerr, Brooke O’Connor, Mark Pawson, Jessica Kerr: “I’m ecstatic, and ecstatic for the team. We have worked very, very hard on the cyborg, especially Brooke. We’ve accomplished things we never thought we could – working at such minute levels of detection – it is beyond what we ever imagined.”

Research Award for Research Participation and Implementation

This award was presented to Paul Adams of Rayonier Matariki Forests.

Paul is the Technical Manager for Rayonier/Matariki Forests based in Auckland. Paul is an active member of the technical committee for the Growing Confidence in Forestry’s Future (GCFF) research programme. He is an enthusiastic supporter of the programme and is very proactive in engaging with researchers to learn more about their research and how it can be applied to his company’s forests throughout New Zealand.

With Paul’s encouragement Rayonier Matariki Forests have hosted a number of trials as part of the GCFF programme including a mid-rotation fertilisation trial and a forest accelerator trial. Paul has also used his contacts within Rayonier to introduce Scion staff to key Rayonier personnel from the U.S. who include leading international experts in intensive forest management. These contacts have provided Scion with valuable advice that has been of benefit to the wider GCFF programme.

Research participation and implementation: Paul Adams, Rayonier Matariki - “It’s fantastic to get this award. The GCFF is a really good research programme – the scientists are passionate about what they do, and very easy to work with. So I really enjoy being part of the whole programme , because I know we are all benefitting from the work.”

Research Award for Contribution to a Science Team

This award was presented to Rebecca McDougal for her contribution to supporting the forest health team at Scion.

Rebecca is a molecular forest pathologist, one of a new breed of pathologists who have revolutionised how diseases are diagnosed, using new molecular techniques.

In this role she uses molecular techniques to diagnose plant disease and characterise plant pathogens, mostly in forest species and for biosecurity-based projects. Current projects include studies of Phytophthora, Dothistroma and Cyclaneusma species, using PCR-based methods, genomics, transcriptomics and effectoromics. Research also includes analyses of the diversity in pathogen populations.

In her role at Scion Rebecca is constantly needing to innovate and either develop or implement new techniques to better understand the pathogens that are affecting our forests. In particular, Phytophthora have proved difficult to diagnose in the past and it is only with new molecular techniques that scientists have been able to determine the species of phytophthora that are affecting our forests.

The molecular genetics community has a strong culture of collaboration and communication, and sharing of techniques and resources. With the recent blossoming of genetic and genomic tools for disease detection, many new investigators, from a variety of backgrounds, have become interested in molecular genetics and genomics. Rebecca is one of these and has recently been nominated to fill a position on the Molecular Genetics Network (OMGN) Steering Committee, and the results should be known soon.

Research Award for a Young Scientist

This award was made to Nurzhan Nursultanov who is very close to completing his PhD studies at the University of Canterbury Electric Power Engineering Centre (EPEC) in Christchurch.

Methyl bromide, an ozone depleting gas, is used as a phytosanitary treatment for approximately 20% of the logs exported from New Zealand – or around four million tonnes a year. Phytosanitary treatments are set by importing countries. New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Agency has determined that beyond the end of 2020 methyl bromide release to the atmosphere will not be allowed. Users of methyl bromide have therefore been seeking alternative treatments for log and horticultural produce exports and have invested several million dollars in a research programme spanning ten years.

One of the projects in this research programme is a non-chemical approach using electrical energy. The University of Canterbury has developed an exciting alternative to methyl bromide log fumigation treatment which has the potential to be used on export logs. The concept of using electrical heating technology, known technically as Joule heating, has been proven in the laboratory.Nurzhan has contributed significantly to this project with his doctoral project developing experimental and computational approaches to study joule heating in wood. The research has resulted in joule heating being demonstrated as being effective and has the potential for commercialisation. It also the potential to be used in preheating logs for slicing and peeling operations in wood processing plants.

For further information please contact;

Don Carson
FOA Communications Manager
04 473 4769 x 4
027 537 9488