The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Forestry Legacy
By Professor Gordon Duff
CEO, Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry
Over time, the successive CRCs have evolved from a relatively narrow focus on plantation production forestry in temperate Australia, comprising a small number of partners with a majority based in Tasmania, to a broadly based, end user-focused research organisation covering the whole of Australia. In recent years, the CRC has included 31 partners and has delivered research relevant to points ranging along the whole value chain of production forestry including social, environmental and regional–economic considerations.
The CRC for Forestry has been established during a period of significant change and development in the Australian forestry sector. The size of the Australian plantation estate has doubled to 2 million hectares since the CRC for Temperate Hardwood Forestry was established: the increase almost entirely through hardwood plantation establishment. Australian forest industries currently produce a combined annual turnover of $22 billion and employ around 83 000 people directly. Well- managed native forests and plantations provide an additional array of environmental services, including areas of increasing national significance such as biodiversity conservation,
carbon sequestration and improved water quality. While these issues were prominent at the time the current CRC was established, they have grown in significance and public profile in recent years, placing even greater national and international significance on the CRC's research outcomes.
The rapid expansion of the plantation estate in Australia since the early 1990s, largely dominated by private sector investment, is beginning to impact significantly on availability of wood from this source, and the harvest is set to accelerate in the next few years. This creates both a challenge and an opportunity for research to contribute to improved risk management, wood quality, harvesting and supply chain efficiency. Demand from the sector for innovation, benchmarking and technology transfer has grown rapidly as more first rotation plantations reach maturity, and the capacity of the CRC to respond has been enthusiastically welcomed by industry partners.
The following document 'Ideas to Impact' contains case studies of 13 important CRC innovations. Representing only a small sample of the many outstanding achievements of the three forestry CRCs, they include:
- the Blue gum Productivity Optimisation System, which has helped plantation managers assess the potential performance of plantations on a range of sites
- the portable near-infrared scanner that predicts cheaply and accurately the commercial value of a tree
- new silvicultural options developed for producing plantation sawlogs
- groundbreaking research to help minimise the risks of genetic contamination in native forests from nearby plantations
- tools enabling the industry to meet its obligation to manage community expectations through engagement and consultation.
Each of these significant innovations demonstrates the forestry CRCs' capacity to deliver world-class research outcomes that enhance the industry's profitability and sustainability. Research training is arguably the most important legacy of successive CRCs. Since 1991, more than 170 research students have graduated from CRC-supported PhD and Masters by Research programs. Many of these graduates occupy key positions in the Australian forest and wood products sector today, in business, government and academia. In this way, the forestry CRCs have profoundly shaped the capacity of the sector, and have helped position Australia as a world leader in forestry and wood products innovation. I am proud and privileged to have been associated with this organisation over the past six years. Through the innovations identified in this small volume, and many others besides, the CRC for Forestry and its predecessor organisations have established a legacy that reflects on the hard work, dedication and ingenuity of the many people who have contributed over the past 21 years.
For more information on the CRC centres and the 21 years of forestry innovation check out
Ideas to impact (PDF, 3.9MB)