Dormancy and cold hardiness in forest tree seedlings (COLDTREE)


COLDTREE was a multi-disciplinary EU funded programme which aimed to produce techniques and tools to improve nursery practice and logistics. It was a first step towards the development of molecular diagnostic tests for cost efficient reforestation and nursery logistics.

For lifting and indoor storage of forest tree seedlings, it is of vital importance to be able to determine the peak physiological condition. The COLDTREE project, which was co-funded by the EC, aimed at unraveling the molecular mechanisms involved in winter hardening in woody plants as a first step towards the development of tools for rapid and reliable determination of the physiological condition of these seedlings. We used cDNA microarrays as a tool to monitor expressional changes in response to temperature and day length triggers.

Participants included molecular biologists, ecophysiologists, commercial tree nurseries and software engineers.

EU project description

Research objectives

  • To identify genes and molecular pathways involved in the onset and release of winter hardiness and dormancy in woody species using cDNA microarrays and to postulate a conceptual model describing the molecular events underlying these processes
  • To select a set of key genes, of which the expression patterns can be used to describe the various stages of dormancy and hardiness
  • To evaluate the merits of these key genes as molecular diagnostic tool for nursery practice and improved forestation.

Funders and partners

EU flag
The European Union - Framework Programme FP5, and institutes of the countries involved funded this programme. Partners in the project included research groups from the Netherlands, UK, Denmark and Sweden.

Forest Research involvement

Forest Research was the co-ordinator for the UK work in the COLDTREE programme. We investigated dormancy and cold tolerance in pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Beech (Fagus sylvatica), using ecophysiological assessment techniques, over three years, both in the field and under controlled environment conditions.  We extracted gene material (RNA) for analysis by colleagues in the Netherlands, and tested ‘target gene’ technology in our lab, using RT_PCR.


Programme was completed during 2005.


Dr Mike Perks

EU contract details

Co-ordinator: Dr Monique van Wordragen, Agricultural Research Department Agrotechnological Research Institute, PO-box 17, 6700 AA  Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Contract: QLRT-2000-00135, Quality of Life & Management of Living Resources, FP5.