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Somatic Embryogenesis

Somatic Embryogenesis of Fir species

Fraser fir Christmas trees are one of North Carolina’s largest specialty crops, producing revenue of over $100 million annually. Genetic improvement efforts are underway using traditional plant breeding methods to increase growth, quality, pest resistance, and post-harvest needle retention. However, progress is slow due to intrinsic challenges of breeding a coniferous species with a long generation cycle (8-15 years).

Somatic embryogenesis is a tissue culture cloning technique that generates genetically identical individuals. It is an important biotechnology tools and a key step in the development of genetic transformation and propagation protocols to produce genetically engineered planting stock in the future.

The goal of this project is to improve somatic embryogenesis methods for Fraser fir and thus, provide a pathway for large-scale clonal propagation and genetic engineering in the future.

In conifers, the preferred starting material for somatic embryogenesis is immature embryos extracted from immature cones during late June.
Immature Fraser fir zygotic embryo
Examples of a good line captured from initiation of somatic embryogenesis in Fraser fir.