6 Sep 2013

Genomics can fast track tree breeding

1:07 pm on 6 September 2013

The forest industry is investigating new tree breeding techniques that could more than halve the time it takes to develop new varieties of pine.

The Government is contributing half the cost of a $5 million research programme by the Radiata Pine Breeding Company.

Chief executive John Butcher said using established selective breeding techniques can take up to 30 years to reach the stage of planting new tree varieties.

He said the research programme is looking to use newly-emerging genomic selection technology to speed up that process with potential savings of many millions of dollars.

"You can make selections very early, you can make them within a few months of making a cross and getting a seed to germinate, because you get the DNA and check it against a range of genetic markers ...... you use that information directly to get your selections into the forest."

He said the time from creating a new germ plasm to getting sufficient quantities to take it into the forest as a commercial planting is 30 years - which he said genomic selection can reduce to under 15 years.

Mr Butcher said the genomic selection programme does not involve genetic modification of pine trees.