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New software program plants the seed for economic gain

A specialist software program developed by the Southern Tree Breeding Association (STBA) and PlantPlan Genetics Pty Ltd is set to deliver millions of dollars in added value to the plantation industry each year.

SEEDPLAN® was developed to provide orchard managers, growers and nurseries with a tool to increase productivity and commercial value by better matching specific seed lots with suitable growing environments and production systems.
Previous research had shown STBA the potential economic gain to be made from breeding genetically improved trees, however, the challenge had been to swiftly capture this potential in plantations through a specially developed analysis tool.

SEEDPLAN® meets this objective by integrating the bio-economic characteristics of seeds such as type of product, productivity levels, haulage distance, site location, prices, rotation lengths and harvesting costs. The new program then calculates these factors using industry data, as well as genetic differences, to determine economic gain.

A pilot study in Blue Gum for WA Plantation Resources (WAPRES) has shown that using SEEDPLAN® to match individual seed lots to specific plantation compartments adds, on average, a further $250 net present value (NPV)/ha in harvested product.

Ultimately, the program is expected to deliver additional value of up to $10m per annum, based on an annual harvesting of 20,000ha.

“SEEDPLAN® adds value by making better use of our existing knowledge of genetics and economics. Using the best genetics to produce seed and plants seems simple enough, however, management of seed orchards can be complex given the dynamics of pollen dispersal, and the fact the best trees in the breeding population are often related,” said Dr McRae.

“Similar studies are currently underway for Pine and other species where the gains are expected to be much larger as the products are more diverse. SEEDPLAN® pulls together advances made in a number of research projects, delivering benefits for industry and in the long run, it should allow nurseries and growers to segregate plants for overall improved plantation productivity,” he added.

Ric Sinclair, managing director of FWPA, believes that the development of SEEDPLAN® will provide immediate and measurable returns to the industry.

“FWPA’s investment in this research project will ultimately lead to more effective industry outcomes. STBA’s work has developed a framework for integrating economic and genetic information, leading to improved industry efficiency,” he said.

Following the conclusion of the study, STBA plans to further develop the system and integrate SEEDPLAN® with the national breeding and deployment programs for plantation forestry.