After just a few weeks of growth, flowers on poplar trees can be seen in the lab.
These flowers typically don’t appear until after seven years of tree growth.
(Photo by C.J. Tsai)
Normal breeding experiments can take years to come to fruition
When scientists want to improve a variety of vegetable, it can take a year or less to see changes—just the length of a reproductive cycle. But breeding improvements into trees can take years—sometimes decades—before changes can be seen.
Now, a process developed by researchers at the University of Georgia may cut that time to a fraction.
Using the CRISPR gene-editing tool, C.J. Tsai of the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and Franklin College of Arts and Sciences has developed a method that shortens the time it takes a poplar tree to flower, from about seven to 10 years to just a few months. By reducing this timeframe, it can accelerate tree breeding for improved traits, such as cold or drought tolerance.
The results were recently published in New Phytologist. The paper also sheds light on how the trees develop reproductive organs and opens doors to new research.
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