1920 special issue
The newly printed version of the special issue.  (Photo: Carolin Rebernig)

The Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research recently published a special issue on the usage of vegetatively propagated Norway spruce clones in Swedish forestry. The UPSC Centre for Forest Biotechnology, a Vinnova Competence Centre, initiated this publication to disseminate research findings widely within the forest sector. Lately, the large-scale usage of genomically selected, vegetatively propagated plants became technically possible and the researchers want to launch a discussion about the pros and cons of the usage of clones. During 2020, the results of the issue will also be presented and discussed in an open seminar. 

The need of an educated discussion about gains and possible risks advanced the idea of publishing a special issue about the usage of clones in Swedish forestry. “We initiated an extensive literature search on the current knowledge related to the use of clones in forestry and its implications for Swedish forestry. This involves knowledge about the effects from a breeding, silviculture, population genetics and ecology standpoint” explains Ove Nilsson, the Director of the Vinnova Competence Centre and guest editor of the special issue. 

All together the reviews show that not only from an economical viewpoint considerable gains can be made by the use of clonal mixtures, but also that the effect on the genetic diversity in Swedish forests will be very minor during the foreseeable future. Ove Nilsson emphasizes that due to the rapidly changing climate quick selection methods to deploy better adapted plants are needed. “We show that these techniques can be key to be able to meet future rapid changes reacting on for example pathogens and droughts caused by the climate change. This adaptation process is currently very slow.” He also pointed out that it is important for UPSC to discuss this topic. “We have knowledge in this area and we have a goal to make sure that our basic research findings can be used to breed for future generations of tree seedlings with better properties and better adaptation to new climate.”

Norway spruce is one of the economically most important forest trees in Sweden. Efforts to optimize productivity, resistance to diseases and to get more resilient plants adapted to a changing climate are constantly made. One way to get rapid access to the very best material from the operational tree breeding programs is vegetative propagation – especially when this method is used in combination with applications of genomic information through a process called genomic selection. The discussion about gains and possible risks of such applications, especially about the effects of a reduced genetic diversity when using clones, is ongoing. 

Full reference of the publication and link to the online edition:
Special Issue: Using Norway Spruce Clones in Swedish Forestry. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, vol. 34, 2019, Issue 5.

For more information please contact:
Ove Nilsson
Umeå Plant Science Centre 
Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Science
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