ABOUT THE CROP
Australian cedar (Toona ciliata var. Australis) has a huge economic potential in the world, aimed at producing high quality lumber. The main products of its processing are planks, boards and battens, firewood, chip and dust, byproducts from wood sawing. The species also has a high potential for the production of phytochemicals, and the molecules belong to the chemical group of terpenoids – the main bioactive substances obtained from the plants.
Belonging to the Meliaceae family, it was exploited to its economic and genetic exhaustion in Australia and Asia, and it is currently one of the most endangered tree species in the world, according to a report by Cabi.org Forestry Compendium. The great interest in the species comes from its great beauty (color ranging from light yellow, brown and reddish pink), a possibility for fine workmanship, lightness and workability. These are characteristics which are common among trees of this family, such as the Brazilian cedar and mahogany.
The species was introduced in Brazil in 1973 by the then Aracruz Celulose in Espirito Santo state. In 1989 seedlings were distributed to farmers, agricultural schools and state interested parties, thus starting the development of plantations in Brazil.
The basic premise for the introduction of the species was the fact that Australian cedar has a high natural resistance to attacks from the apical bore bug, the grandella Hypsipyla moth, responsible for derailing the production of national meliacea, such as the native pink cedar (Cedrela Cedrela) and the Brazilian mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). Its larva creates galleries in the apical budding of the plants, which prevents the formation of a commercial stem after planting. The Australian cedar wood is highly similar to Brazilian cedar and mahogany, the main reason for its immediate market acceptance and high commercial value that it has reached in our country.
In 2002 Bela Vista Forestry brands the pages of this story. The company founded by siblings Ricardo and Erika Vilela, had the original purpose of investing in eucalyptus forests and producing forest seedlings by building a nursery; having in its portfolio the production of seedlings of native trees and clonal eucalyptus. After its first contact with the Australian cedar, they immediately realized its economic potential and started the journey that would make the company an international reference in the work of breeding the species.
Until then, despite the enormous crop potential, the material multiplied by seeds had great unevenness in its main forestry characteristics such as shape, height, diameter, resistance to pests and diseases and management of planted forests. Lack of origin and quality of the commercial seeds available in the country, compounded by the lack of basic technical and scientific knowledge about the crop, led Bela Vista Forestry in 2006 to seek breeding strategies to continue working with the species.
In 2006 we started the Bela Vista Forestry – Australian Cedar Breeding Program Initiative with the support of institutions such as the Australian CSIRO research agency, UFLA – Federal University of Lavras, the State Forestry Institute – IEF / MG, among others. In order to enhance Australian cedar cultivation, research lines were created in breeding, nutrition, plant production, plant pathology, integrated pest management, forest management, forestry technology and wood quality, in order to generate technical and scientific information.
Reintroducing the species in Brazil for breeding purposes was instrumental in transforming the existing panorama, when we imported 101 reproductive matrices from 16 sources from along the entire east coast of the Australian continent, natural site for the species.
Currently there are 6 cultivars (clones) of the type developed by Bela Vista Forestry, recorded in the MAP (Australian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply). These, coupled with the knowledge and bibliographic database generated by the various lines of research carried out, lifted its cultivars to a technological level that provides security to the producer, with wood productivity gains between 200 and 300% more than the commercial material, resistance to pests and diseases, and greater adaptability profile for different sites; truly transforming the Australian cedar culture. The company continues to invest in developing new material.
In 2014, the Australian cedar timber came to the domestic market. Sales of lumber as planks, boards, liners and battens, comes to validate existing expectations and show the beauty and potential of the species, with a portfolio of important clients. In 2015, we launched Austral, a product line of decoration objects and utensils made of solid cedar wood, combining the best of the species with the excellent design work from the Barral and Lamounier design studio in Minas Gerais.
In the next few sessions, you’ll get an overview of the information generated by the Breeding Program, with updated information on the cultivation of the species. Should you wish to, please feel free to contact us.
Enjoy the reading.
Biologist and Australian Cedar Breeding Program Manager