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Important gene controlling tree growth and development found

Scientists at the Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) report today about a breakthrough in our understanding of how the growth and development of forest trees is controlled. In an article published in the international journal Science, they show that the FT gene that was previously shown to control the flowering time of annual plants, also controls tree flowering.

With the help of this gene poplar trees can be stimulated to flower after a few weeks instead of after the normal 10-15 years. The scientists also show that the same gene not only controls the flowering time of trees, but also the timing of when the trees stop growing and set bud in the fall. That the same gene was involved in all these processes was highly unexpected.

The breakthrough for our understanding of the regulation of tree growth and development might revolutionize forest tree breeding and can lead to the development of new tree seedlings with a dramatically improved growth and also "tailor made" quality parameters suited for improved pulp and paper production, better construction materials and enhanced bioenergy production.

Trees are extremely important for life on earth. They are often a dominating part of the ecosystems and 30 per cent of the earths landmass is covered with forests. Trees produce many important products for mankind such as renewable fuel, cellulose for the pulp and paper industry and construction materials.

Compared to most other plants, trees display some key features. They are the latest flowering plants known ­ many trees do not form their first flower until they are 10-20 years old, sometimes even older! Trees also have the ability to cycle between growth and dormancy. This is a way to adopt to harsh winter conditions when the supply of water is low and the tree might be damaged from both drought and cold. The trees have adopted to these conditions by stopping growth and forming buds a
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Source:Swedish Research Council


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