Market ready DNA screening technology for eucalypts
A project led by researcher Gondwana Genomics Pty Ltd has completed a key test of new DNA marker technology for commercial applications. The project is aimed at implementing MAS to rapidly increase productivity in Australia's major plantation eucalypts.
Outstanding trees in breeding programs are currently identified by growing and measuring thousands of trees in trials to identify elite families from which parents are chosen. However, just as in human families, there is considerable variation in the offspring of these crosses, which currently can only be identified by growing the progeny until 7-8 years of age and then measuring them.
The FWPA project has demonstrated that it can identify elite E. globulus and E. nitens families and the best individuals in those families by using a simple DNA test. The DNA test involves screening trees with thousands of targeted DNA markers, or SNiPs, that occur in genes that control key commercial traits like wood density, growth and pulp yield.
Using only the DNA from parents in E. nitens and E. globulus seed orchards of Forico and HVP, scientists on the FWPA project were able to predict elite trees among progeny from different trials with very high accuracies. Correlations comparing predicted performance (just using DNA) with Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) ranged from 0.7 - 0.9, which is an outstanding result.
This same marker technology also allows for fingerprinting to identify labelling errors, identification of inbred trees and full pedigree reconstruction, all in the same cost-effective test. Marker technology can be used to complement the traditional breeding and increase the efficiency of tree breeding.
These results demonstrate that DNA markers can be used to screen large numbers of seedlings raised from open pollinated and controlled crosses to select superior progeny. This will allow identification of superior trees for breeding when they are seedlings.
Andrew Jacobs, Research and Innovation Manager at Forico, one of Australia's largest private forestry management companies, states: "The results are very exciting and Forico remains committed to applying the technology to support our traditional breeding programs as MAS is likely to deliver significant productivity gains through the shortening of the breeding cycle."
Source: Friday Offcuts
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