Eucalyptus research plantation.
CSIRO intensifies search for wood trait markers
Expanding upon the success of the Hottest 100 project, Dr Simon Southerton and his team are set to undertake an extensive search for genetic markers to improve the productivity and sustainability of plantation forestry.
10 December 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011
In a new project intriguingly dubbed 'Blue Gum Genomics', a CSIRO forestry research team is set to expand its search for genetic markers to improve the productivity and sustainability of plantation forestry.
The team, led by CSIRO Plant Industry scientist Dr Simon Southerton, will screen over 1000 genes in Australia’s major plantation eucalypts in the hope of finding those genes responsible for superior wood traits.
The team’s previous project, the ‘Hottest 100’, carried out in collaboration with Gunns Ltd and Forestry Tasmania with support from Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), identified molecular markers associated with pulp yield and growth rate.
'We are confident that in the Blue Gum Genomics project we will identify molecular markers that will enable tree breeders to breed trees with pulp yields of over 60 per cent.'
Dr Simon Southerton, CSIRO
Tree breeders can now use the markers found as part of the Hottest 100 project to identify trees with these qualities, substantially increasing the speed and intensity of the breeding process and increasing the sustainability of the plantation forest industry.
'With just six markers out of possibly several dozen that are out there we have shown that we can increase pulp yield by over two per cent and growth rate by 10 per cent', said Dr Southerton.
'This will translate into a large increase in plantation productivity as millions of tonnes of pulp are produced globally each year from eucalypt plantations. Less land and resources will be required to produce the same amount of pulp.'
A total of 11 molecular markers (or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)) associated with pulp yield were identified in the ‘Hottest 100’ project after studying variation in about 100 genes in shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens).
In the new project, jointly funded by the CSIRO, FWPA and four forestry companies, the team will take advantage of improvements in genomic technology to examine variation in over 1000 genes in Australia’s major plantation eucalypts, shining gum and blue gum (E. globulus).
'We are confident that in the Blue Gum Genomics project we will identify molecular markers that will enable tree breeders to breed trees with pulp yields of over 60 per cent. We are also seeking to identify markers for selecting plantation trees that produce better quality sawn timber. The findings of this research will make plantations much more profitable and help reduce our reliance on native forests', Dr Southerton said.
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