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Plant Genetics Research

Bucket truck accessing a large pine
Steve McKeand, North Carolina State University,

Plant Genetics Research underpins successful restoration, reforestation and rehabilitation efforts. Successful restoration requires planting species, seed sources, and populations that will be adapted to both current and future conditions of the planting site. ”Success” also requires that the resulting ecosystem will have the characteristics needed to produce the desired outcomes; be it wildlife habitat, timber quality and the like.

Forest Service plant genetics researchers seek to understand how and to what degree traits are controlled by genes and how those genes have been affected by processes such as natural selection, plant migration and mutations. This information is used to develop plants that will be adapted to current and future climates, are resistant to non-native and native pathogens, and have improved wood properties and growth rates.

Other research seeks to determine the specific genes controlling the traits desired; thereby enabling breeders to improve their ability to develop appropriate plant material. Sometimes the genes desired are available in local populations and sometimes not, in which case advanced breeding methods are developed.

Forest Service researchers are also working with land managers to establish migration corridors and gene conservation programs to help conserve animal and plant species that could be “at-risk”. Forest Service plant genetics research spans from the discovery and sequencing of individual genes at the molecular level, to understanding how natural selection has resulted in patterns of geographic variation at the landscape level.

Forest Service Plant Genetics Research