Tree breeding for resistance conference in Denmark
By: Þröstur Eysteinsson

The Nordic Group for the Managemant of Genetic Resources of Trees held its annual conference in Denmark, September 9-11 last. It was a successful meeting and well organised by Ulrik Bräuner Nielsen and his colleagues at S&L – KVL. Participants came from all the Nordic countries plus Canada and Russia.

The invited speaker, Dr. Alvin Yanchuk from the BC Ministry of Forests, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, covered the topic well in a keynote paper titled “Tree Breeding for Resistance to Biotic and Abiotic Stresses:new targets for old programs?“ Among the things he pointed out was the need to conserve genetic diversity, taking the example of Pinus lambertiana, where only 2% of trees have genetic resistance to white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola). That small proportion of the population is essential to successful breeding for blister rust resistance. If forest management does not insure conservation of genetic diversity, the resistance trait could be lost from some populations.

A total of 17 papers and 5 posters were presented. Six of them dealt with various aspects of resistance to root- and stem rot fungi, the general message being that considerable genetic variation exists within tree species that can be utilised in breeding for resistance. Six papers/posters dealt with various forms of abiotic damage, usually related to climatic adaptation. Here again, a great deal of variation exists within populations with which to work in breeding and selection. Expression of genes involved in adaptive traits can also be modified by the environment during seed formation. A smaller number of papers/posters dealt with other fungal diseases, herbivory resistance and technical aspects of breeding for resistance.

On an excursion to Jutland, the participants visited several experiments and seed orchards of a variety of tree species, including Sitka and Norway spruce, Douglas-fir and the Danish specialty; Christmas trees.