Genetically Modified Trees Beat Blights and Beetles

Canada is well known for having a massive stock of commercial tree plantings, a fact which has made the country the de facto lumber supplier for much of the the western hemisphere. The northern nation produces many different varieties of temperate hardwood, from deciduous varieties like oak, maple, and ash to evergreen pines and other coniferous species.

 

Of all the wood varieties Canada exports, one type stands out as being particularly important to the country’s lumber industry. Spruce trees are the single most widely grown species in the nation, outnumbering any other variety of commercially grown tree. Fibers and wood derived from spruce trees are used in a wide variety of different manufacturing applications, and the existence of extensive spruce plantings is economically vital to many of Canada’s provinces.

 

While spruce growing has no doubt proven an asset to Canada’s national economy, it has started to seem more like a liability in recent years. Pressure stemming from the spread of blight diseases, introduced beetles, and unpredictable climate patterns has wreaked havoc on the spruce population, putting an extremely important national resource in peril.

 

Recognizing the significance of the spruce plantings to both the country’s ecosystem and economy, Canadians are devising ways to fight back. The latest effort is a $10.5 million dollar research project put together by Genome BC, a Vancouver public-private agency that specializes in genetic modification. The project is called “Spruce-Up,” and will involve the development of fast-growing spruce seedlings. These specimens will be utilized expedite the creation of new cultivars, allowing for more precise adaptation.

 

The project has the potential to be massively helpful in the battle against growing pressures. If successful, Spruce-Up will make it possible for researchers to create spruce trees that are resistant to pests, diseases, and drought in a fraction of the time it would normally take, something which is sure to be a relief in the ongoing battle.