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Discovery may speed forest biotechnology

to prepare for long, harsh winters. The genetic mechanisms that adapt trees to these conditions and control it are so strong that trees will behave about the same even if they are transplanted to warmer regions, the scientists say.

For applied research, Strauss said, researchers can now induce activation of the FT gene earlier, so that trees will reproduce at much younger ages ?months instead of years - and better lend themselves to conventional genetic manipulation. It could be possible, he said, to more rapidly breed some desirable traits, and then, via normal sexual crosses, remove the FT gene to leave behind trees that no longer have it, nor reproduce abnormally early.

In other cases, a modestly strong FT gene might be left in place to provide sustained benefits, such as earlier or more heavily flowering fruit tree varieties. Especially in situations where conventional approaches are ineffective, the gene could provide a new option for modifying flower and fruit production, which fruit tree breeders do routinely.

A better understanding of these processes could also provide information about how trees may react and adapt to climate change, or perhaps identify tree populations based on their DNA that are most at risk. Such populations might benefit from accelerated breeding or transplantation to aid their survival. This would give ecologists and conservation geneticists more tools to work with, Strauss said.


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Source:Oregon State University


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