The western redcedar (WRC) industry, currently valued at over $1B is facing a decline that could potentially reduce revenues significantly. This decline is precipitated by the shift from old growth to second growth forests and climate-driven challenges. Second-growth forests are nowhere near as productive or valuable as old growth forests, producing less volume and wood that is less durable for outdoor wood products.
Current breeding strategies for WRC can take decades to produce the desired traits. Dr. Joerg Bohlmann of the University of British Columbia is working in partnership with John Russell of the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, to apply genomic selection to reduce that time by up to 30 years. Because the key producers of these trees are actively participating in the project, uptake of the results will be rapid.
The project will result in a next generation of WRC that has the high-value attributes of old growth trees, is more resistant to pathogens and browsing wildlife, and is better adapted to future climates.