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Towards intensification of conifer production through multi-varietal forestry based on somatic embryogenesis

Coordinator: Andrea Rupps, HUB – Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – Institut für Biologie, Germany
andrea.rupps (at) hu-berlin.de

Other partners: AR, DE, ES, FI, FR, SE
Project duration: 04/2019-06/2022

Project abstract:

The project MULTIFOREVER (www.multiforever.com) aimed to accelerate breeding and afforestation efforts with valuable conifers. We focused on a number of valuable species with ongoing strong breeding programs in Europe (European and hybrid larches, Norway spruce, Douglas-fir, maritime, loblolly and radiata pines) and Argentina (loblolly and hybrid slash x Caribbean pines). In a context that will require more and more specific plantable material in response to increasing demands, the selection process can be sped up in conifers using multi-varietal plantations (MVF). In such strategy, selected varieties are deployed in mixtures through an innovative vegetative propagation method, somatic embryogenesis (SE), reducing dependencies on seed-orchards.

This artificial in vitro process still exhibits several bottlenecks, but our consortium – initially involving 7 expert teams in conifer SE from 6 countries in Europe and Argentina – achieved several milestones on the way, developing a joint strategy to bring high-quality somatic trees at competitive costs into forests:

  • In order to reduce production costs via scale-ups, we used bioreactor culture systems, decreased needed manual labour with automation systems and enhanced longevity of cultures as we improved cryopreservation options.
  • Promising results for breeders have been obtained in radiata pine by exposing somatic embryos to temperature stress at an early stage (‘priming’). They subsequently formed a kind of memory during their development and exhibit later (at the stage of growing plants) tolerance to abiotic stress, i.e. drought.
  • In spite of the lockdown, we were able to exchange young SE plants between different countries and established demonstration plots for multi-clonal as well as seed-standard mixtures for several species. These trials prefigure the first cross-European perspective for conifer MVF based on SE. We hope to reach and convince foresters, plant producers and land owners by demonstrating the potential of our technology and plantation strategy. With SE-supported forestry, breeding could be massively shortened as we can draw on cryopreserved clone collections from directed crosses of selected progenitors.

Project website: link
Project presentation at ForestValue kick-off seminar 23-24 May 2019:  pdf or animated in YouTube
Stakeholder Article 1 MULTIFOREVER – Multi-varietal plantation forestry of conifers as chance for the future?
Stakeholder Article 2 MULTIFOREVER – Somatic seedlings at field as the first cross-European perspective for conifer multi-varietal forestry
Stakeholder Article 3 MULTIFOREVER – Presenting scientific news to an interested public and legislative powers that show solutions for forests of the future