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Plant Breeding, Genetics, & Genomics

Conifer Coordinated Agricultural Project

On September 19-20, 2007, Ed Kaleikau (NIFA) and Randy Johnson (Forest Service) met in College Station, TX, with 40 researchers and educators from land-grant universities and the USDA Forest Service to kickoff the new joint-funded $6 million Conifer Translational Genomics Network Coordinated Agricultural Project (CTGN-CAP). The goal of the integrated CAP is to provide tree breeders across the United States with new tools to enhance and accelerate traditional tree improvement activities. These knowledge-based tools derive value from experimentally demonstrated associations between traits of interest, like wood density or disease resistance, and the tree's genetic code (genetic markers). By adding genetic markers to their toolbox, breeders will be able to select superior trees more accurately, more rapidly, and at lower cost than using traditional approaches alone. It is anticipated that within five years cooperatives producing virtually all of the conifer seedlings in the United States (more than 1.3 billion annually) might benefit from this technology improvement.

Methods for implementing the technology in applied tree breeding programs will be thoroughly reviewed and economically evaluated, and results of these studies will be delivered directly to tree breeders managing the major tree improvement cooperatives around the country.

In addition to validating new genomics-based tools, the project will undertake an assertive and comprehensive education and extension program that will provide a graduate-level curriculum for teaching molecular tool-based breeding in trees and widespread training for undergraduate and graduate students, tree breeders, managers, lay-people, and other stakeholders through a series of workshops, internships, and classes. The CTGN will draw from or deliver to virtually all conifer genomics scientists and tree breeders in the United States.


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