Bela Vista Forestry is a national reference in Australian cedar. We seek and develop the latest technology to benefit our company and our customers. In order to achieve high productivity and safety in planting Australian cedar, we have developed applied research with the species since 2006 together with UFLA (Federal University of Lavras) in key areas. We hold a broad genetic base of the species, where our breeding work stands. We provide technical and educational material on Australian cedar growing through our website. We also provide consulting services and technical support on specific issues to interested customers.
We created a unique technology package, which combines high productivity genetic material, access to information and on-field technical support to customers throughout the entire deployment. To understand the depth of this work and our commitment to the species and to our customers, you can learn more this story:
Bela Vista Forestry and Australian cedar breeding in Brazil
Introduced in the country by the former Aracruz Celulose over 40 years ago, Australian cedar (Toona ciliata) was planted in the north of Espirito Santo state, in the company’s testing grounds, which although not going for its large-scale planting, it saw in the species a promising high income business for farmers. Through donating seedlings to farmers, municipalities and to INCAPER, Aracruz started to spread the species. Until then, the genetic material that was being planted had been brought over with the intent to have it adapt to that specific region. Thereafter, it was the producers, themselves, who continued to spread the plant by collecting its seeds without any selection criteria and introducing it in other states, some with soil and climate conditions that were completely different from those of the initial region – Espirito Santo state. Thus began a series of mishandlings, quite common in enterprises with new forest species. In addition to disregarding the geographical differences of the country, which is almost a continent in size, and the intent to force the specie’s adaptation in unsuitable areas, the entrepreneurs did not seek reliable information on crop management. Had they sought information, they would have seen that in those days, there was simply no research on this specie’s nutrition, pests and diseases, use of herbicides, pruning and thinning, productivity, etc.
In 2003, contacted by professors from the Federal University of Viçosa, Bela Vista Forestry became interested and started working with the species. As early as 2005, due to the lack of high quality genetic material, and the lack of the whole theoretical basis mentioned above, the company realized that to take this cedar seriously as a business, it would have to generate the necessary information, for there is no other company in Brazil doing it; and for one obvious reason; research and forest breeding is an expensive, slow and risky process. Only large companies (pulp and steel) had enough capital to fund such endeavor, but because of the very characteristics of their products, they were not interested in solid wood.
We saw these problems as a business opportunity and decided to invest in projects to breed and clone Australian cedar.
The lack of seed quality was a major problem. Every year we did not know whether there would be enough quantity or quality. In the years before the economic crisis of 2008, euphoria gripped the forestry industry, with high prices and high demand for everything being produced. With this, opportunistic people joined the market, and the quality of available seeds and seedlings reached a terrible level.
In 2006, we started to import Australian cedar seeds, with the help of the Federal University of Lavras, and the quality of the material selected by the Australian Tree Seed Centre, CSIRO, as part of a wider conservation work. Our team traveled to Australia, and from there we brought seeds from one hundred selected trees from north to south of the continent – 16 different source sites. Plants seating up to three thousand kilometers apart. A very diverse genetic basis, indispensable for the genetic breeding project that began with the potential to adapt it to the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás, Bahia, São Paulo, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina and Paraná. The plants selected came from areas ranging from 40 m (seaside) to 1,100 m above sea level, and areas with rainfall between 900 mm and 2,500 mm, different Australian climates and biomes. Thus, a wide genetic range.
In 2007, after the quarantine released the seeds, the company produced 30.000 seedlings, which were used in two genetic tests concerning the imported sources and families (origin/progeny tests) in distinct biogeographical regions. One test was carried out in the cerrado (savanna-like land) biome in Joao Pinheiro (Northwestern Minas Gerais), at 670 meters above sea level, in dry and sandy, low-fertility soil; another was implemented in a savanna/Atlantic forest transition area in Campo Belo (Southwestern Minas Gerais), at 850 m of altitude, in red oxisol of medium fertility, with 1.500 mm of rainfall a year without drought. From the studies and analyses of these two tests, we started to select the materials that would become cultivars (clones), starting with 1.600 plants and at the end getting to 39 promising genetic materials. After this stage, we ran genetic clone tests in four municipalities of the state of Minas Gerais: Jequitaí, João Pinheiro, Piumhi and Campo Belo. After six years of research, we narrowed our selection down to 6 cultivars or clones, with good adaptation in all tested areas, with up to 200% productivity gain over the range of existing Australian cedar in Brazil. The average productivity of forests arising from national seeds is around 12 m³/ha/year, while the selected materials have up to an average of 30 m³/ha/year, and one of the clones tested yielded 37 m³/ha/year.
The selection also took into account the resistance to major cedar pests and diseases, such as the white psyllid, the phyllachora leaf fungus and some mites. The studies led to mastering the species handling with a series of gains. The pruning of twigs was made easier and the need for planting was reduced from 1660 to 800 trees per hectare, as the selection requirement is much lower due to the homogeneity between the plants.
Our partnerships were paramount to reaching this outcome. We have been investing in research since 2006, relying primarily on support from the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA), the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV) and the Federal Institute of Technology Studies (IFET). At some points we also had support from the State Forestry Institute (IEF) and Sebrae. The participation of UFLA spawned several academic and scientific papers, including monographs, dissertations, theses and articles. Currently, there are seven new lines of research underway, involving quality and wood uses, pests and plant diseases, nutrition, handling and breeding. The second generation of cultivars is already being worked on. During the development of the project we had and still have the participation of professors Edson Pozza (Phytopathology); Antonio Eduardo Furtini (Soil); Sebastião Rosado (Breeding); Fausto Weimar Acerbi Junior and Natalino Calegario (Forest Management); Tarcisio Lima and José Reinaldo Moreira da Silva (Wood Quality and Technology), among others, showing that with this project, UFLA has also become a center of excellence in Australian cedar, and the interaction between private enterprises and the academia is always beneficial for the country.