Genetic behavior reveals cause of death in poplars essential to ecosystems, industry

ScienceDaily | 10/19/2018 | Staff
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A research team -- jointly led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Oregon State University in partnership with the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the University of Georgia -- analyzed the genetic response of purebred black cottonwood poplars infected by a pathogen known as Septoria.

Septoria causes untreatable cankers, or wounds, on the surface of the trunk and branches and kills trees early in the growing cycle.

Industry - Varieties - Poplar - Cottonwood - Cottonwood

"Since the 1900s, industry has tried to grow hybrid varieties of poplar -- including those made by crossing eastern cottonwood and black cottonwood -- to produce a faster-growing tree, and they have been puzzled by the early death of hybridized poplars grown in many parts of the United States," said Wellington Muchero, the study's lead author with the Center for Bioenergy Innovation at ORNL.

Hybrid varieties are economically valuable because they can grow up to three times faster than the pure species. If the hybridized poplars survive, they could dramatically increase production of high-value, bio-derived materials, biofuels and forestry products such as pulp and paper, lumber and veneer.

Black - Cottonwood - Poplars - River - Systems

Black cottonwood poplars grow natively in river systems across the Pacific Northwest region of the United States where Septoria is not yet a threat.

"What our study revealed is a double whammy for black cottonwoods," said Muchero, a specialist in plant microbe interfaces. "Since the pathogen is not prevalent in its native region, these trees have allowed their genetic resistance mechanisms to fall apart with no consequence."

Gene - Susceptibility - Species - Jared - M

"Surprisingly, we found that a gene that causes susceptibility is widely prevalent across the species range," said Jared M. LeBoldus, senior author and assistant professor of forest pathology at Oregon State University. "This degraded resistance and maintained susceptibility...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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