A breakthrough in pine tree breeding will lead to forests better adapted to climate change and bioenergy use, University of Florida researchers report.

The improved forests will stem from a genetic technique the researchers have developed that can create new tree varieties in half the time it takes current breeding methods.

The technique, detailed in a study published online by the journal New Phytologist, is expected to increase the security and competitiveness of the U.S. forestry industry.

The Southeast is a leading producer of the world’s pine, and in Florida alone, the forestry industry had an economic impact of more than $14 billion on the state’s economy in 2009 and provided more than 80,000 jobs. Pine is used for building materials, furniture and paper.

Before the development, creating a new pine variety took more than 13 years. Now, with the new technique, the estimated time is about six years. The savings to the forestry industry are expected to be substantial.

“Competitiveness is a critical element right now,” said Matias Kirst, an associate professor in UF’s school of forest resources and conservation and an author of the study.