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National Centre for Future Forest Industries (2012-2015)

NCFFI brings together forestry and forest products researchers from University of Tasmania, Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, CSIRO and the University of the Sunshine Coast. The centre was established to coordinate and lead national efforts to improve the sustainable management of production forests and increase the sustainable use of wood, particularly in building and construction.

Utilisation of plantation hardwood 

Project Manager: Dr Matthew Hamilton

This project aimed to characterise and optimise products from plantations, with a focus on veneer and veneer-based engineered woof products (EWPs) from Eucalyptus globulus and E.nitens

Outcomes of this project were:

  • NIR applications have proved effective in the quantification of various commercially important wood properties. These represent only some of the commercial opportunities NIR spectroscopy offers industry. Applications are limited primarily by the narrow opportunities plantation growers have for gaining an economic benefit for improved wood quality.
  • The temperate eucalypt plantation resource is not uniform in terms of its log characteristics and wood properties, highlighting opportunities for silvicultural intervention and product segregation to maximise returns to growers 
  • The temperate plantation resource can produce structural engineered wood products suitable for the existing market. The characteristics of these products, specifically shear strength, could be enhanced through the production of hybrid plywood products (eucalypt x pine)
  • Based on prototype performance, manufactures involved in prototype production have expressed a desire to use plantation eucalypt veneer in future products. 

Residues and processing solutions

Project Manager: Assoc Prof Gregory Nolan

Sub-project - Building with low-grade timber

This subproject project aimed to develop mass-timber floor and wall panels from low-grade timber for immediate use in building design, procurement and construction in Tasmania. A number of floor and wall panels were fabricated and tested to determine compliance with the required system performance requirements in building. Design, specification and engineering analysis for the panels was developed to allow immediate uptake by industry. The project was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Tasmania School of Engineering and CIS, and included industry support from TimberLink, Clennetts Mitre 10, Island Workshop, and Aldanmark engineers.

Outcomes of this project were:

  • Low-grade mass timber wall and floor prototype panels have been developed for fabrication with low-tech equipment. 
  • Panels have been shown to satisfy the structural performance requirements for residential construction. 
  • Panels can be potentially cost comparable to commonplace construction systems currently in use. 
  • Industry partners have expressed an interest in fabricating the floor panels developed.

Sub-project - NRAS Inveresk: A technology transfer case 

This subproject project aimed to use the design, costing, and construction of 120 unit NRAS development in Tasmania as a technology transfer case study; using intellectual support and risk management to help realize a timber framed solution for the 120 unit development, rather than precast concrete which is the predominant form of construction. 

This subproject was in collaboration with Morrison Breytenbach Architects, Circa Morris-Nunn, Birelli Architecture, Aldanmark engineers and Island Workshop.

Outcomes of this project were:

  • Through the design development, costing, detailed design, and prototyping process the timber framed solution developed has proven to be competitive against the status quo of concrete construction. 
  • The consortium of design professionals involved in the project is strongly encouraged by the solution developed.

Peeling and sawing of plantation E.nitens

Project Managers: Paul Adams and Assoc Prof Gregory Nolan

In March 2014, two studies were undertaken to evaluate the quality of peeled veneer and sawn-timber from 30-year-old E. nitens trees sourced from a genetics trial at Kamona in north-eastern Tasmania. This work is part of a larger project which aims to improve our understanding of the wood quality from E. nitens and E. globulus plantations.

Outcomes of this project were:

The results indicate that wood from older E. nitens plantations is denser and stiffer than wood from younger E. nitens plantations that are typically used for pulpwood. The older plantation wood is also demonstrating properties that could make it a viable alternative to native forest regrowth timber for sawing and peeling. 

These studies, and other like them, are beginning to build a more detailed picture of what uses and values the plantation estate will have to offer as it matures and becomes ready to harvest.

Systems optimisation for multi-rotation plantation systems 

Project Manager: Dr Daniel Mendham

This project was designed to integrate the best available knowledge on multirotation sustainable plantation management, with harvesting systems optimisation tools and knowledge. It has produced a range of scientific papers and a spreadsheet-based economic optimisation tool that can be applied at stand scale and multiplied to estate scale as an aggregate of stands. It is appropriately transparent and constrained and can be modified for application by individual users.

Outcomes of this project were:

This project has demonstrated that plantations can be suitably managed for sustainable productivity and profitability, and it has produced an excel-based tool (the 'System Optimisation Tool') to facilitate industry in exploring the financial and biophysical impacts of potential management choices around harvest and into the following rotation. It is requires a range of inputs, many of which need further testing and validation, but it can help managers to understand the benefits of investing more into conservative harvesting options. The hypothetical case studies in the report showed that cut to length harvesting with slash retained at site tended to be the best option for both productivity and profitability, but we recommend that individual companies use the tool to explore their own circumstances.

Potential and actual yield

Project Managers: Assoc Prof Don White and Prof Mark Hunt

Compare actual and potential productivity of the existing second rotation Eucalyptus globulus estate in southern Australia and identify key site and climatic attributes affecting productivity. From this, the extent, severity and causes of any changes in productivity between rotations can be quantified.

Outcomes of this project were:

The empirical growth curves were applied to depict the relationship between first and second rotation productivity for current management. In dry environments and on deep soils the decline can be as great as 50%. A process-based modelling analysis showed that some of the observed decline was due to variation in rainfall and plant available soil water between rotations. After accounting for the effect of water there was still a substantial residual, particularly on drier sites, and this was related to a qualitative measure of insect damage. Strategies that reduce second rotation water stress such as a fallow, selection of drought avoiding material and variation in stocking density are prospective for managing second rotation decline. Management of harvest residue will also be important in the longer term.

Matching germplasm to site, management and desired products 

Project Manager: Prof Brad Potts

This project aims to enhance plantation productivity and profitability of Australia's main plantation species by better matching their genotypes to sites, silviculture and products. The project will determine: 

i) the extent to which genotype performance changes across different abiotic and biotic environments to better define germplasm deployment zones; 

ii) the sustainability of genotype performance under multi-rotation coppice regimes; and 

iii) the genetic opportunities and tradeoffs amongst traits affecting industrial objectives and risk traits

Outcomes of this project were:

  • Stem straightness is becoming increasing recognised as a selection trait for solid wood objectives and can be readily assessed using subjective methods. 
  • AWV can be used as an indirect measure to assess standing trees for MOE (ie wood stiffness). We have now shown this is heritable in E. globulus, and highly correlated with pulp yield - thus no trade-off for solid wood and pulpwood breeding objectives. 
  • Wild browsing of pedigreed E. globulus seedlings was not influenced by genetics, but did impact tree development, morphology and survival, resulting in reductions in survival, height and basal area, an increase proportion in multiple stems, delays in flowering as well as delays in phase change from juvenile to adult foliage. Fitness impacts were minimal in response to a once-off browsing event, but effects were exacerbated when trees suffered repeated browsing. 
  • While the growth performance of clonal propagules tested was inferior to seedling propagation, genotype performance was shown to be highly correlated across propagation type (clone versus seedling), arguing that their genetic evaluations can combined provided account is made the main effect of propagation type. 
  • 24% of wood property QTLs and 38% of growth QTLs exhibited significant genotype-by-environment interaction. Nevertheless, despite markedly different environments and pedigrees, many QTLs were stable, providing promising targets for the application of marker-assisted selection. 
  • Susceptibility to Mycosphaerella leaf disease (MLD) damage is genetically based and significantly correlated across different sites or natural outbreak. The approach of planting field trials in high risk sites seems a viable means of screening, although a better trait to select on may be growth on a site of infection (being tested). If outbreaks do not occur when plants are still in the juvenile stage there is the option of coppicing to return trees to the juvenile state. 
  • Plant secondary compounds are intimately linked to protection of plants against herbivory and diseases. Genetic differences were shown to exist for the pattern of change in these chemicals through early seedling development, but remain relatively stable across field sites as well as experimentally induced drought stress. While chemicals are inherited in an additive manner, several key defensive chemicals were inherited in a non-additive manner in interspecific hybrids with E. globulus. 
  • We showed that susceptibility of E. globulus to the introduced myrtle rust was under strong additive genetic control and that significant genetic variation resides with and between races of E. globulus. Both resistant and susceptible trees can be found in most races. 
  • We showed that with one exception, genetic based susceptibility to key disease, insect and marsupial pests of E. globulus was independent, arguing that selection for resistance to one enemy will not impact on susceptibility to the others. 
  • A study of the genetic relationship between standing tree acoustic wave velocity (AWV; indirect measure of MOE and thus wood stiffness) showed that this trait was under significant genetic control and was highly positively genetically correlated with pulp yield. This indicated that firstly there has not been adverse effects from selection based on a pulpwood breeding objective and, secondly there is the possibility these traits are genetically related and pulp yield can be indirectly selected from standing tree AWV (opening the way for mechanical assessments using harvesting heads). 
  • A collaborative study of harvesting logistics of two genetics trials showed that harvesting productivity was affected by genetics, this was mainly due to a strong positive genetic correlation with tree size (large stems increased productivity). While no significant genetic control of stem forking was detected, at the phenotypic level forking was shown to adversely affect harvesting productivity. 
  • The coppicing of the genetics trials following their harvest was monitored at 8 months post-harvest. Inbreeding depression for survival and height growth of the unthinned coppice shoots of the survivors was amplified by harvesting/coppicing cycle. The extent to which the inbreeding depression in coppice vigour is maintained post- stem thinning will be determined following an 2015 assessment. However, it is possible that inbreeding effects in plantations grown from open pollinated seed may be confounded with the phenomenon of 2R productivity decline. 

Australian Forestry Operations Research Alliance (AFORA)

Project Manager: Prof Mark Brown

The research priorities of the AFORA are: 

  1. understanding, managing and controlling operational costs for existing, evolving and new harvest systems; 
  2. planning and managing value recovery within harvest operations; 
  3. optimising system and supply chain efficiency.

Outcomes of this project were:

Continue to have strong industry collaboration around research that makes a direct impact on their operations and business outcomes.

Total Centre Output

The staff and students of the National Centre for Future Forest Industries were involved in numerous publications, presentations and reports over the lifespan of the centre. A list of the total output from the NCFFI is available in both EXCEL and EndNote formats.

EXCEL NCFFI outputs (XLSX, 33KB)
EndNote NCFFI outputs (ZIP, 74KB)

Annual/Progress Reports

Media Releases


National forestry centre to inject vision, direction and innovation (PDF, 66KB)