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Co-ordination of Tree Breeding in Europe

Teagasc participated in a Coordination activity in Framework Six called TREEBREEDEX consisting of 27 partners in 18 countries, concerning the upgrading of genetic resources of trees available in Institutes throughout Europe.

Over decades, they have built up huge collections of trees of economic species and vast networks of experimental trials. As well, they have continuously developed original methodology in genetics and in related sciences to recombine, test, evaluate, analyse, select and mass-produce forest tree species. All this, together with specific facilities and equipment, represents a unique set of infrastructures based on unique biological materials.

Unfortunately, this resource and the teams concerned are scattered all over Europe and do not reach the critical mass for efficiently conducting their activities. In addition, tree breeding R&D activities have become even more complex over the years due to new environmental concerns (climate change, pressures from urbanisation / environmental concerns), socio-economic pressures (multifunctionality) and development of new technologies (genomics, micropropagation). Rare are the teams who can now compete alone and fulfil all the R&D demands.

The main aim of this project was to create a European Virtual Tree Breeding Centre to

  • foster co-operation and complementation among teams
  • enhance the excellence level of R&D activities across Europe
  • progressively integrate tree improvement research into co-operative programmes
  • open infrastructures to the wider scientific community in forestry,  agriculture & horticulture ( fruit trees, ornamental trees)

This has been achieved through 6 Activities:

  • Activity 1-- Overall Coordination and project management
  • Activity nr 2: Creation of a virtual Tree Breeding Centre: for  better integration, education and dissemination of forest tree improvement R&D activities
  • Activity nr 3: Define the Geographical Structure of Genetic Diversity of Species: with the aim to  the delineate  adaptive environments and breeding zones at the European level
  • Activity nr 4: Assess the Structure, Organisation and Long-Term Management of Forest Tree Breeding Material: aimed towards developing a  joint management of breeding populations
  • Activity nr 5: Optimisation of breeding strategies: this is the networking of breeders’ experimentation tools and methodology for a joint development of breeding activities and genetic research
  • Activity nr 6: Optimisation of Improved Variety Mass-Production and Deployment in Forests: sharing of expertise for a more efficient dissemination and utilisation of improved varieties

Networking activities included website and discussion fora, database creation, exchange of expertise and methodologies, common protocols and synthesis reports on specific topics. This allowed substantial economies-of-scale and reinforcement of competitiveness and served as a unique link with the forestry wood chain, stakeholders, policy makers and the public.

Teagasc jointly coordinated Activity nr 6 with the specific tasks:

  • Exchange of knowledge and expertise on the best practices for management of Forest Reproductive Material (FRM) through a website forum and seminars aimed to identify the  best conditions to induce flowering in selected trees, management of  seed orchards, pruning , spacing.
  • Develop an inventory of FRM / varieties already in production in a common database and connections with existing data-bases.
  • A synthesis of the State-of-the-art on common research fields (seed transfer, flower management in orchards, vegetative propagation methods for different species),
  • Exchange of experiences in quality control and assurance of FRM and varieties: assessment of the value and  need for new research methods (molecular markers)
  • Exchange of information on the best strategies for deployment of varieties over space and time: evaluation of seed (variety) transfer possibilities, discussions with population geneticists, silviculturists, pathologists, end-users for best deployment of varieties in the forests, production of  literature so as to meet public reservations on the use of new varieties
  • Exchange of experiences in technology transfer of improved materials, from research level to private nurseries and in promoting activities (demonstration trials, )  which might assist in supporting  and promoting the deployment of improved varieties.

Many documents are available from the Treebreedex website: http://treebreedex.eu/.

Specific reports and proceedings in which Teagasc was a contributor include:

  • The Conference ‘Seed Orchard Conference in Umea, Sweden, Sept 2007'. Summaries and full conference proceedings.
  • treebreedex Seed Orchard, Umea Sept 26-28, 2007 G. Douglas
  • Treebreedex Society Concerns, Treebreedex meeting report, 12-14 October 2010 Limoges, France. G. C. Douglas & B. Heinze