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Domestication and breeding of sandalwood in Fiji and Tonga

This project aims to help conserve and domesticate native sandalwood (Santalum yasi) in Fiji and Tonga, and develop a sustainable planted sandalwood industry.
Santalum yasi is a commercially valuable sandalwood species native to Fiji and Tonga whose heartwood yields a sandalwood oil. It has been over-exploited in the wild, resulting in the fragmentation and local extinction of natural populations. The demand for sandalwood-based products remains high, and prices are buoyant. As the species is quite easily cultivated, and it produces a non-perishable, high-value, low-volume product, a substantial Santalum yasi industry can be developed throughout Fiji and Tonga.
The Fijian and Tongan industries, which depend on wild harvesting, must become efficient, plantation-based systems, with integrated processing and value adding. Santalum album oil from Australian plantations will enter the market, so it may be necessary to differentiate Santalum yasi products. To do this, the remaining Santalum yasi diversity needs to be secured and the quality of germplasm and plants improved. FST/2015/020 identified that many existing stands were inbred, which may diminish plantation performance.
This project will improve understanding of the breeding biology and genetic diversity of traits in Santalum yasi; enhance the conservation status of Santalum yasi in Fiji and Tonga; and develop strategies to enhance the quality and availability of Santalum yasi germplasm. Research on the species' breeding systems and diversity will guide implementation of a breeding strategy. Establishing conservation and seed production stands will maintain genetic diversity and produce high quality germplasm for commercial planting.