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2009 August 04

Canadian forestry industry employs genomics to track bioenergy feedstock growth

David Landes
A Canadian-led research effort will apply develop genetic engineering tools to help more accurately predict when bioenergy feedstock will available.

Relying on tools derived from genomics, the study of organisms’ genetic make-up, the project is designed to increase the efficiency of investments and contribute to a more sustainable use of Canada’s forest resources for bioenergy.

The $7.8 million project is to be carried out by universities and research centres across western Canada and is a response for how to address the current mountain pine beetle epidemic, Pulp and Paper Canada reports.

“We are currently faced with millions of hectares of dead trees, and have a surplus of potential bioenergy feedstock, but this does not guarantee a supply for the future. The question is: what are we going replant with?" Dr. Joerg Bohlmann from the University of British Columbia, told the magazine.
“This is where genomic tools can help us be more strategic in terms of how we plan feedstock development in our forests -- taking into account a holistic approach: biodiversity of our forests, climate change and pest prevalence -- to name a few.”

The project seeks to gather genetic information on pine trees and bark beetles, and then apply techniques from genomics and risk modeling in what Genome BC's president and CEO Dr. Alan Winter hopes will “further Canada's international leadership in forest health genomics”.

The project is expected to wrap up in late 2012, with applications expected to be available within five years of the project’s completion.

Read the full article here.