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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

Achievements in forest tree improvement in Australia and New Zealand 8. Successful introduction and breeding of radiata pine in Australia

Wu, Harry; Eldridge, Ken G.; Matheson, A. Colin; Powell, Mike B.; McRae, Tony A.; Butcher, Trevor B.; Johnson, Ian G.


Radiata pine (Pinus radiata) was originally known as Pinus insignis or ‘remarkable pine’, an apt name for a tree which has had such a dramatic impact on the world timber scene. It is a native conifer of California, USA, and was first introduced into Australia around 1857 for ornamental plantings. There were two major sources of original importation, one through Ferdinand von Mueller to Victoria and South Australia in the 1860s, and the second through New Zealand seed merchants. Forty-year-old trees were clearfelled for sawing in 1908 in Victoria. The fast early growth of radiata pine in Mount Gambier and north of Adelaide in the 1870s and 80s prompted the state forest services of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales to advocate planting of the remarkable pine as an exotic conifer to compensate for the relative paucity of indigenous softwood in Australia.

There was some plantation development in the 1920s and 1930s, but planting almost stopped during World War II. Large-scale planting of radiata pine started again only in the late 1950s. Up to the late 1960s, unimproved seeds used to establish plantations in Australia were at first from early ornamental plantings, then from small plantations and later, in part, imported from New Zealand. Initial research and breeding were undertaken by the Forestry and Timber Bureau (at Canberra and Mt Gambier) and the Queensland Forestry Department — both studied reproductive biology, selected superior trees and established progeny tests in the early 1950s. Following the Seventh British Commonwealth Forestry Conference in Australia and New Zealand in 1957, the other five state forest services and two private companies initiated genetic improvement work in the late 1950s. After establishment of the first grafted seed orchard in 1957, a total of 145 ha of seed orchard was established by 1968. Large-scale plantings using improved seeds started in the early 1970s. Many clones were received from NZ before the 1970s, and a range-wide seed collection was made in the five native stands in California in 1978.

In 1983, the Southern Tree Breeding Association (STBA) was formed to coordinate the national breeding program of radiata pine, and it now serves about half of Australia's radiata pine estate. The other half is controlled by Forests New South Wales (FNSW) and the Western Australian Forest Products Commission (FPC). Radiata pine has been bred for three generations since the 1950s, with realised genetic gain up to 33% for volume from the first generation and more than 10% gain predicted from the second generation. The focus of the third-generation breeding in STBA has shifted to wood quality traits with:

• integration of quantitative genetics, molecular genetics and wood science

• development of economic breeding objectives

• application of best linear unbiased prediction (BLUP) and a Web-based interactive database for customised delivery of breeding values.

During 50 years of breeding radiata pine in southern Australia, several changes in strategic directions have been developed and implemented. Options for such flexibility must be maintained. To further increase genetic gain, infusion of new genetic material from the range-wide collections, increased recombination rate and selection intensity, purging of inbreeding depression, deployment by clonal forestry, and development of strategies dealing with adverse genetic correlation between wood volume and quality traits will be critical.


history; breeding programs; genetic improvement; genetic resources; provenance; traits; economics; wood properties; growth rate; information systems; radiata pine

Published in

Australian Forestry
2007, volume: 70, number: 4, pages: 215-225

Authors' information

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Eldridge, Ken G.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Matheson, A. Colin
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Powell, Mike B.
Southern Tree Breeding Association Inc.
McRae, Tony A.
Southern Tree Breeding Association Inc.
Butcher, Trevor B.
Forest Products Commission
Johnson, Ian G.
Forests New South Wales

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

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