Trevor Fenning, BSc, PhD

Research Scientist

Trevor Fenning


Tel: +44 (0)300 067 5900
Tel direct: +44 (0)300 067 5935
Fax: +44 (0)131 445 5124

Forest Research
Northern Research Station
Midlothian EH25 9SY

Trevor joined the Northern Research Station of Forest Research in May 2008, where he is now charged with the running of the tissue culture unit, to develop and extending Forest Research’s in vitro propagation systems for Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), principally by means of somatic embryogenesis (SE), together with the long term storage of appropriate breeding material by cryo-preservation.

From 1997-2008 Trevor was a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, where he studied the defence responses of Norway spruce (P. abies) and the European field elm Ulmus campestris, at the ecological and genetic levels through the use of biotechnological methods.

From 1989 to 1996 he worked in Horticulture Research International (HRI) at East Malling and Wellesbourne, on tissue culture systems for the vegetable brassicas (Brassica oleracea), wild cherry (Prunus avium) and the English field elm (U. procera).

He studied for his Ph.D. in Botany at the University of Nottingham from 1985 to 1989, and for his B.Sc. in Applied Biology at the University of Wales in Cardiff from 1981 to 1985.

Current role

Research Scientist

Running the tissue culture unit.

Current programmes

Breeding and production of conifers

Living Ash project (external site)

Affiliations and achievements

  • As part of the Living Ash Project grouping , funding was obtained from Defra for a 5 year programme of work starting in August 2013, to utilise plant tissue culture protocols to propagate ash plants (Fraxinus excelsior), including those putatively identified to be resistant to ash die back disease, caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus  (formerly known as Chalara fraxinea).
  • Keynote speaker to the 20th Biennial Meeting of The New Zealand Branch of the International Association for Plant Biotechnology, from the 25th - 28th February 2013, at Waiheke Island, New Zealand, on the subject of Forest biotechnology and climate change.
  • Keynote speaker to the IUFRO Somatic embryogenesis and other vegetative propagation technologies conference, held in Brno, Czech Republic, June 25th – 28th, 2012, on the subject of Forest biotechnology and climate change.
  • Presentation and poster to the IUFRO Somatic embryogenesis and other vegetative propagation technologies conference, session on “Implementation/mass propagation into commercialization”, held in Brno, Czech Republic, June 25th – 28th, 2012, on the subject of the prospects for using somatic embryogenesis to propagate Sitka spruce in the UK.
  • Delivered two invited lectures to the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology of Mendel University, in Brno in the Czech Republic, as part of a visit which was co-funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Mendel University and IUFRO:
    • “Forest biotechnology and the environment”, 21st June 2012
    • “An example of the defence mechanisms of a tree to insect pests at the molecular and genetic levels”, 22nd June 2012.
  • In 2010 I was appointed by Springer Academic Publishers to edit a book of my choice in their Forest Science series, which I chose to develop with the broad subject and title of “Challenges and Opportunities for the Worlds Forests in the 21st Century”.  The book has been available from late 2013 onwards.  See :
  • Oversaw the construction of a new tree tissue culture laboratory (see the Autumn 2011 issue of FR News), which has greatly improved the prospects for this work area in an adverse economic climate.
  • Speaker at the IUFRO Tree Biotechnology conference, session on “Economic, Scientific and Societal Values”, in the Azores, Portugal, June 2007, on the subject of global warming and its’ effects on forests.
  • Keynote speaker and session chair for the 17th meeting of the New Zealand branch of the IAPTC&B held in Rotorua, New Zealand, February 2007, organised by Scion Research.
  • Invited speaker to a Finnish public lecture series on ‘Forest biotechnology and environmental interactions’, hosted by the University of Oulu, Finland, October 2006.
  • Obtained independent funding for two large independent collaborative projects within MPI-ICE from the Deutsche Forschungs-Gemeinschaft (the German Science Foundation or DFG), to study the defence responses of the European field elm and Norway spruce.
  • Co-supervisor of two Ph.D. students, funded by the DFG.
  • Keynote speaker and session chair for the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) Tree Biotechnology conference, Umeå Plant Science Centre, Sweden, June 7th-12th 2003.

Main recent publications 

Hammerbacher, A., Paetz, C., Wright, L.P., Fischer, T.C., Bohlmann, J., Davis, A.J., Fenning, T.M., Gershenzon, J. and Schmidt, A. (2014). Flavan-3-ols in Norway Spruce: Biosynthesis, Accumulation, and Function in Response to Attack by the Bark Beetle-Associated Fungus Ceratocystis polonica. Plant Physiology 164 (4), 2107-2122.

Fenning, T.M. (2014).  Challenges and Opportunities for the World’s Forests in the 21st Century.  Editor.  36 Chapters, pp838. Volume 81, Forest Sciences Series, Springer Verlag, Dordrecht.

Fenning, T.M. (2014).  Introduction.  In: Challenges and Opportunities for the World’s Forests in the 21st Century.  Ed. T.M. Fenning, Springer Verlag, Dordrecht. Ch 1, p1-19.

Büchel, K., Austel, N., Mayer, M., Gershenzon, J., Fenning, T. & Meiners, T. (2014). Smelling the tree and the forest - elm background odours affect egg parasitoid orientation to herbivore induced terpenoids. BioControl 59 (1), 29-43.

Hammerbacher, A., Schmidt, A., Wadke, N., Wright, L.P., , Schneider, B., Bohlmann, J., Brand, W.A., Fenning, T.M., Gershenzon, J. and Christian Paetz. (2013). A Common Fungal Associate of the Spruce Bark Beetle Metabolizes the Stilbene Defenses of Norway Spruce. Plant Physiology 162(3), 1324-1336.

Fenning, T.M. and Park, Y.S. (2013). The prospects for using somatic embryogenesis to propagate Sitka spruce in the UK. Online proceedings of the IUFRO Somatic Embryogenesis and Other Vegetative Propagation Technologies conference, held in Brno, Czech Republic from the 25th-28th of June 2012. A .pdf is available from the IUFRO working party 2.09.02

Yan, D., Fenning, T.M., Sha Tang, S., Xinli Xia, X. and Yin, W. (2012). Genome-wide transcriptional response of Populus euphratica to long-term drought stress. Plant Science 195, 24-35 (October issue)

Buechel, K., McDowell, E., Nelson, W., Descour, A., Soderlund, C., Hilker, M., Gershenzon, J., Fenning, T.M., Gang, D.R. and Meiners, T. (2012).  An elm EST database for detection of leaf beetle oviposition-induced defense genes.  BMC Genomics 13(242) - June issue.

Hammerbacher, A., Ralph, S.G., Bohlmann, J., Fenning, T.M., Gershenzon, J. and Schmidt, A. (2011). Biosynthesis of the major tetrahydroxystilbenes in spruce, astringin and isorhapontin, proceeds via resveratrol and is enhanced by fungal infection.  Plant Physiology 157(2), 876-890.

Buechel, K., Malskies, S., Mayer, M., Fenning, T.M., Gershenzon, J., Hilker, M. and Meiners, T. (2011). How plants give early herbivore alert: Volatile terpenoids attract parasitoids to egg-infested elms.  Basic and Applied Ecology 12(5), 403-412.

Fenning, T.M. (2010). From the lab to the land. Chartered Forester magazine. Winter 2010 issue. Invited article.

Fenning, T.M., Walter, C. and Gartland, K.M.A. (2008).  Forest biotech and climate change.  Nature Biotechnology 26(6), 615-617.

Fenning, T.M. and Gartland, K.M.A. (2007).  Why forests matter.  Prospect Magazine, 133 (April 2007 issue).  Invited article.

Nicole, M.C., Zeneli, G., Lavallée, R., Rioux, D., Bauce, É., Morency, M.J., Fenning, T.M. and Séguin, A. (2006).  White pine weevil (Pissodes strobi) biological performance is unaffected by the jasmonic acid or wound-induced defense response in Norway spruce (Picea abies).  Tree Physiology 26(11), 1377-1389.

Fenning, T.M. (2006).  The Use of Genetic Transformation Procedures to Study the Defence and Disease Resistance Traits of Trees.  In: Tree Transgenesis: Recent developments.  Eds. M. Fladung & D. Ewald, Springer Verlag, Heidelberg.  Ch 10, p201-234.

Fenning, T.M. (2004).  Fraud offers big rewards for relatively little risk.  Nature 247 (6973), 393.

Walter, C. and Fenning, T.M. (2004).  Deployment of genetically-engineered trees in plantation forestry: An issue of concern?  The science and politics of genetically modified tree plantations.  In: Plantation Forest Biotechnology for the 21st Century.  Eds. C. Walter and M. Carson, Research Signpost, Kerala, India.  Ch 24, pp 423-446.

Fenning, T.M. and Gershenzon, J. (2003).  Perspectives and prospects for forest biotechnology in Europe.  In: Sustainable Forestry, Wood Products & Biotechnology.  Eds: Barredo, Y., Espinel, S., and Ritter, E. D.F.A. Press, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.  pp 131-136.

Gartland, K.M.A., Crow, R.M., Fenning, T.M. and Gartland, J.S. (2003).  Genetically modified trees: properties and potential.  Journal of Arboriculture 29(5), 259-266.

Fenning, T.M. and Gershenzon, J. (2003).  The rise and fall of GM field trials within the EU.  Nature Biotechnology 21(4), 360.

Gartland, K.M.A., Kellison, R.C. and Fenning, T.M. (2003).  Forest Biotechnology and  Europe’s Forests for the Future.  A challenge document for presentation and discussion at Forest Biotechnology in Europe: Impending Barriers, Policy, and Implications.  In : Forest Biotechnology in Europe.  The Challenge, The Promise, The Future. Eds. McCord, S. and Gartland, K.  Institute of Forest Biotechnology, North Carolina Research Triangle Park, USA.  pp 53-84.

Fenning, T.M. and Gershenzon, J. (2003).  Seeing the wood for the trees: The difficulty in understanding where forestry in Europe is now, and where it might be going.  In : Forest Biotechnology in Europe.  The Challenge, The Promise, The Future. Eds. McCord, S. and Gartland, K.  Institute of Forest Biotechnology, North Carolina Research Triangle Park, USA.  pp 13-17.

Fenning, T.M. and Gershenzon, J. (2002). Where will the wood come from?  Plantation forestry and a role for biotechnology.  Trends in Biotechnology 20(7), 291-296. 

Gartland, J.S., Brasier, C.M., Fenning, T.M., Birch, A. and Gartland, K.M.A. (2001). Ri-plasmid mediated transformation and regeneration of Ulmus procera (English Elm).  Plant Growth Regulation 33(2), 123-129.

Puddephat, I.J., Robinson, H.T., Fenning, T.M., Barbara, D.J., Morton, A., Pink, D.A.C. (2001).  Recovery of phenotypically normal transgenic plants of Brassica oleracea upon Agrobacterium rhizogenes-mediated co-transformation and selection of transformed hairy roots by GUS assay.  Molecular Breeding 7(3), 229-242.

Gartland, J.S., McHugh, A.T., Brasier, C.M., Irvine, R.J., Fenning, T.M. and Gartland, K.M.A. (2000).  Regeneration of phenotypically normal English elm (Ulmus procera) plantlets following transformation with an Agrobacterium tumefaciens binary vector.  Tree Physiology 20(13), 901-907.