Spruce trees are the most widely used species in Canada’s forest plantations. Breeding new generations of spruce trees can be a slow process, however. That’s why Canadian forest genomics researchers are studying tree growth and yield as well as wood properties, at the molecular level. Genomics can be used to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Canada's forest products industry, which accounts for $81.8 billion of activity annually and provides more than 375,000 direct jobs.
Drs. John MacKay and Jean Bousquet, forest biologists at Laval University are project leaders of Arborea II: Genomics for molecular breeding in softwood trees. Arborea II will create an inventory of the natural variability and expression of thousands of spruce genes. By identifying specific genes associated with growth and wood quality, the project will develop tools and protocols making it possible to select well adapted high-performance spruce trees with better-quality woods. This in turn will promote the competitiveness of the Canadian forest industry. Breeding cycles can take more than 20 years with spruce trees.
Anticipated project results will help to shorten the time it takes to select and breed trees with desired traits, increasing the commercial value of spruce trees for saw logs and for pulpwood. Arborea II will draw on the research strengths of the Canadian Forest Service and national and international collaborators, in order to integrate research, technology transfer, economic analyses and studies of the environmental acceptability of molecular breeding of spruce trees. Interacting with provincial research organizations and the forest products industry, the project team will generate new knowledge on a valued multi-purpose tree species, offering social, environmental and economic benefits.
Integrated GE3LS Research: An analysis of socio-economic impacts and environmental issues associated with the use of genomics research to enhance breeding of softwood trees
GE3LS Project Leaders: Nancy Gélinas and Robert Beauregard, Université Laval
By identifying genetic markers associated with superior growth and wood quality, andselecting for these enhanced qualities in tree breeding, forest producers could see an increased yield of white spruce plantations. In turn, this would likely reduce pressure on natural forests and could help to concentrate reforestation efforts on a reduced land base and get quicker results. The goal of this integrated GE3LS project is to assess the socio-economic impacts of applying new genomics knowledge to the forestry sector.GE3LS researchers will assess the profitability of the forest network and the economicbenefits of plantation forestry with the outputs of genomics.
Given the realistic potential for benefits to the industry, what are the broader social,economic and environmental issues to consider? Will the public be accepting of thesenovel technologies and their application to Canadian forestry? This GE3LS project willseek to understand the perception people have of the use of genomics in forestry,based on initial spontaneous assumptions and more informed understanding of theenvironmental issues.
The goal is to gain a better understanding of the issues related to forest genomics fromthe point of view of the public and of stakeholders, and to assess their level of influenceon the socio-political system