More than 100,000 seeds from 136 families of maritime pine and radiata pine from four genetic improvement programs are already in a Portuguese nursery

Sonae Arauco, one of the largest companies in the world of wood solutions, has launched a Research & Development (R&D) project aimed at supporting forest producers in significantly increasing their production, helping to revert the downwards trend of planted area in the country.

The project consists in a trial with more than 100,000 maritime pine and radiata pine from different families (136 in total) and origins (Portugal, Spain, France and Chile), aiming to test and compare the behaviour of plants in different soil and climate conditions in Portugal.

"The decline trend of maritime pine in the last decades and the market's estimated increase in demand for sustainable raw materials, such as wood, form the basis of this project. Sustainability is an integral part of Sonae Arauco's strategy and we intend to be an agent of change in this sector and to support the development of the national forest," says Nuno Calado, Wood Regulation & Sustainability Manager at Sonae Arauco.

This project, Nuno explains, “has the major advantage of using seeds from different pine improvement programs, meaning, species with high productivity, which will allow us to give recommendations to forest owners and national nurseries on which species and origins are more adapted and more profitable for different regions of Portugal."

Between 2005 and 2019, the growing volume of maritime pine fell by 37%. Between 1995 and 2015, 27% of the planted area was lost, equivalent to more than 13,000 football fields every year. It must be added to these numbers the challenge of low productivity and lack of management, which generates less profitability and has a negative impact on the whole value chain.

In the first phase, which will run until mid-February, the plants will grow in a forest nursery under identical conditions. The next steps will be to plant them in six different locations over a total area of 24 hectares in central and northern Portugal, and to repeat the process the following year in order to eliminate the climate's effect on the results. At a later stage, this testing area will also serve as a demonstration area.

In the long run, the project intends to reproduce the selected plants on a large scale, in order to enable forest producers in Portugal to have access to plants of high genetic quality and productivity, contributing to an increase in the profitability of the pine value chain.