Young scientist recognised for research into soil improvements to support establishment of tree cuttings

FWPA congratulates Megan Warner - Seed Production Manager at Australian Bluegum Plantations (ABP) in Albany, Western Australia - for her success in being announced as a recipient of the 2021 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The awards, which are run annually by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), were established to recognise innovative scientific projects that will contribute to the ongoing success and sustainability of Australia’s agricultural industries.

The 11 recipients will receive funding to conduct their research projects over 12 months.

Megan won the FWPA-sponsored award in recognition of her research project that centres on investigating whether adding beneficial root-colonising bacteria and fungi to soil can support the root development of Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian blue gum) cuttings.

Nurseries have typically experienced difficulties propagating blue gum from cuttings, but Megan’s research could have the potential to change that. If successful, the approach would help the industry to produce more high-quality trees.

At the same time, the ability to grow blue gums from cuttings, as opposed to seeds, has the potential to fast track genetic research, and allow growers to deploy high-value genotypes in a much quicker timeframe.

Faster deployment of new genotypes would help the industry improve productivity on the existing land base. This is becoming increasingly important as a means of mitigating the risks associated with pests and diseases, climate change and even shifts in market demand.

If found to be successful, the outcomes of the project will be used to develop guidelines for industry to optimise the output of a cuttings program, and increase the ‘strike rate’ or ‘rootability’ of planted cuttings.

While similar approaches to improving the soil microbiome for cuttings have been trialled overseas in the past, the concept hasn’t yet been tested extensively in Australia. 

“The thought of testing a new approach to Australian tree growing was incredibly exciting to me,” said Warner.

“I was attracted to this area because I’m passionate about finding new ways to make plantation forestry more sustainable. Being able to grow more trees from cuttings would be a great way to achieve that, because less resources would be required to produce more timber in a much shorter timeframe.”

FWPA Managing Director, Ric Sinclair said it is always encouraging to hear about the important work of Australia’s young and emerging scientists.

“Supporting young scientists like Megan aligns with FWPA’s commitment to research and development within the forest and wood products industry,” said Sinclair.

“It’s a great demonstration of our commitment to helping the sector be collaborative, innovative, sustainable and competitive against other industries and products available in the marketplace.

“Megan’s success highlights the value added by our young scientists who are so committed to solving the issues of the day, while simultaneously keeping one eye on the future.” 

Dr Ben Bradshaw, ABP’s Research and Development Manager, also extended his congratulations to Megan on behalf of everyone at the company. 

“Megan’s project will deliver an important aspect of ABPs Tree Improvement strategy and it is pleasing to see Megan’s innovative approach recognised with this award. It is a great opportunity for Megan to further develop her research career,” said Bradshaw.

Details of the award winners and their projects can be found here.

Is the soil microbiome of interest to you? Join us for our forthcoming workshop!

The development of an RD&E investment plan focusing on research into the soil microbiome is currently underway at FWPA. 

The bacteria, fungi and other organisms that make up the soil microbiome affect the way trees and other plants respond to their environment, influencing forest health and function.

As part of the investment plan development process, an industry workshop is currently being planned, during which details of existing soil microbiome research will be presented, while growers currently undertaking work in this area will have the opportunity to discuss their projects. 

The workshop will provide a valuable opportunity for growers to discuss and identify the next steps, along with future opportunities for collaborative soil microbiome research.

More details on the workshop and how to get involved will be announced in due course.