Harnessing new developments in molecular technology

Our molecular team has harnessed these developments to tackle practical forestry questions

News from Forest Research: February 2012

frnews0212_sitka.jpg/$FILE/Sitka spruce Pine-tree lappet moth

The science of molecular technology has been revolutionised over the past twenty years. Recent developments such as next-generation sequencing, alongside existing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), have provided new opportunities for examining the world around us. Two current projects are highlighted here to show its potential.

Tree breeding

Tree breeding is inherently a long-term business. Knowing at an early stage exactly what characteristics and quality a tree will have has many advantages, as this offers the opportunity for early selection of trees with the desired characteristics. Forest Research is participating in two EU projects, NOVELTREE and PROCOGEN, which aim to match DNA variation with particular traits and ultimately enable rapid selection of trees with desirable characteristics.

Source of pests and diseases

The discovery of the first breeding population of pine-tree lappet moths in Scotland has given rise to concerns as this insect is a pest elsewhere in Europe. To establish where the Scottish population of moths originated, we have sourced samples of this moth from across Europe and are comparing their mitochondrial DNA with Scottish samples. This will enable us to better understand how these pests spread and help us to reduce their future dispersal. We have also been doing similar work to determine the origins of other tree pathogens (such as horse chestnut bacterial canker) that are being seen for the first time in Britain.

Further information

Genetic conservation molecular studies

A longer article on this subject was published in Chartered Forester, Winter 2011, p12.

What's of interest

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This and other news stories can be found in the Winter 2011/2012 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.