As noted by Turner et al. (2004), the lack of a native softwood species in Victoria led to the establishment of small test plantations of softwood species potentially suited for timber production under Victorian soil and climatic conditions. This work commenced as early as 1880. It involved testing of a range of ‘best-bet’ conifer species based on expectations of their performance and productivity in other states like NSW, SA and WA as well as in New Zealand and also in their native habitat in the USA and southern Europe. It was soon discovered that Pinus radiata (Radiata Pine) was most suited to the environmental conditions commonly encountered in southern Australia and this became the dominant species for the rapid expansion of a softwood plantation resource in Victoria and other southern states.
This article is one of many of Leon's contributions to this site.
The Forests Commission commenced a breeding program with radiata pine in 1958, but before describing the work it is useful to consider why it was started.
In the earlier years of pine plantation establishment in Victoria, seed for new plantings was obtained from cones collected from trees on the ground after final fellings. There was no selection for the type of tree from which the cones were taken. Sometimes, even cones were collected from trees felled as thinnings. Gradually, from around the world, reports were received that the characteristics of trees could be improved by more careful selection of the seed source. Indeed, there seemed no reason why tree crops could not be improved by using the plant breeding techniques so successful in many agricultural crops.
In the early 1970s the FCV initiated critically important flora and fauna survey work. This was a response to concerns about the potential for loss of biodiversity due to clearing native forests to establish pine plantations. This article describes a young forestry graduates' experiences in flora and fauna survey, and associated research work, for the FCV.
See also FCV Bulletin 24
The project is located 22 km s-w of Myrtleford and about 6km from the Lake Buffalo Dam wall. Monitoring of three small catchments – Clem, Ella, and Betsy Creeks started in 1975. This involved measurement of streamflow and rainfall. The catchments all carried native eucalypt forest. In December 1979 Clem Creek slopes were cleared. The debris was burnt in April 1980 and the slopes planted with radiata pine. This grew steadily if not spectacularly and the trees were becoming of harvestable size about 2005. An on-site meeting in November of that year discussed this with plans to be formulated in the coming months. However, in January 2006 the area was burnt by the “second megafire” and this destroyed all equipment and the plantation. The equipment was replaced by the University of Melbourne insurance policy, the burnt pines were harvested, and the slopes replanted. Measurement of outflows is continuing. The work was mainly concerned with water and nutrient balances but many other aspects of forest hydrology have been considered. Now read on….
"Let us regard the forest as an inheritance, not to be destroyed or devastated, but to be wisely used, reverently honoured and carefully maintained. Let us regard the forest as a gift, entrusted to any of us only for transient care, to be surrendered to posterity as an unimpaired property, increased in riches and augmented in blessings, to pass as a sacred patrimony from generation to generation."
Baron Ferdinand von Mueller - Suggestions on the Maintenance, Creation and Enrichment of Forests (1879)