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A Genetics and Tree Improvement theme illustrates the gains made since those first plantings of the old crop and the potential for the future. The research programmes of the Radiata Pine Breeding Company, with its priority target of speeding up the breeding cycle and of Scion for breeding species other than radiata, are described. Varietal forestry and its benefits are explored as are the forestry applications of genomic technologies. The genome sequencing of radiata pine is presented in an every-persons guide, while tree quantitative genetics is similarly explained without the mathematics. There is a plea for the need to conserve wide genetic diversity. The Last Word concludes that the New Zealand forest industry must grapple with these new tree breeding technologies to keep competitive.
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New Zealand's forests are a vital to our environment, economy and society. They are the backdrop to our landscapes, they are the homes of our native fauna and flora, they are the places where we recreate, they protect our soils and water, they are the raw material for our third largest export earner, they provide employment for thousands of New Zealanders and they store a huge quantity of carbon extracted from the atmosphere.