NovelTree – novel technology!

Using high-throughput genotyping to enable many thousands of DNA-markers to be developed and mapped to the Sitka spruce genome for the first time

News from Forest Research: October 2012

Noveltree team

Without resorting to genetic engineering, DNA sequencing technologies can assist tree breeding by identifying the genetic markers linked with certain desirable traits, such as growth rate or stem quality. This enables marker-assisted selection (MAS), which has great promise by allowing very early selection of trees in the laboratory based on DNA-markers, rather than having to wait for the trees to grow in the field. Work has been ongoing to identify an ever wider range of markers, but recent major technological advances in high-throughput genotyping have enabled many thousands of DNA-markers to be developed and mapped to the Sitka spruce genome for the first time.

This development is an important step forward as it makes genome-wide selection a feasible approach, which will ultimately enable quicker and more-accurate selection of faster growing trees with superior stem quality traits. This same approach is already being used in dairy cattle breeding.

The work was carried out by Forest Research, in collaboration with The Roslin Institute and the ‘GenePool’ sequencing department of Edinburgh University, under the European Union FP7 NovelTree contract.

Instrumental to Forest Research playing a key role in NovelTree were the specially designed large-scale clonal trials planted on three sites across Britain in 2005 as part of its MAS project. One result of establishing these trials was a Memorandum of Understanding with Genome Canada, which led to Forest Research’s membership of NovelTree.

Forest Research and The Roslin Institute have also recently been successful in securing new EU funds with the FP7 contract ProCoGen. This will progress the DNA marker selection approach further as scientists will be looking for markers linked to new quality traits such as wood density.

The objectives of the MAS project are explained on our web page on the selection and testing of conifers and the success of the NovelTree contract has recently been summarised in an EU Newsletter.

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