The Christmas Tree Genetics (CTG) Program
The Christmas Tree Genetics (CTG) Program was started in 1996 with the mission to advance North Carolina’s Christmas tree industry through the application of genetic principles. North Carolina ranks second in the nation in revenue from Christmas trees, over $100 million annually. While the industry is focused in the mountainous western portion of the state were Fraser fir is cultivated, other species are also grown for Christmas trees in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Activities of the CTG Program include: 1) tree improvement of Christmas tree species important to North Carolina: Fraser fir, Virginia pine, eastern white pine and eastern redcedar, 2) screening new species for Christmas tree production, 3) development of propagation systems for Christmas trees, 4) development of pest resistance in Fraser fir, especially resistance to Phytophthora root rot and the balsam woolly adelgid, and 5) genetic conservation of Fraser fir , a globally threatened species. Additionally, the CTG Program is currently coordinating a national effort funded by the USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative to develop and use genomic tools to improve firs for use as Christmas trees.
Identification of Signal Molecules that Play a Role in Disease Resistance
Be able to identify plant traits that are correlated with disease resistance is an interesting approach and offer a physiological tool for breeding programs. Through the use of the GC-MS, we have identified certain chemical compounds that seems routinely to be in much higher concentrations in two different firs, one of them with significance Balsam Woolly Adelgid (BWA) resistance. Ethan Bucholz, a mater student in our lab, is attempting to alter the concentration of those components in the headspace of closed environments, to assess its effect on BWA health and reproductive success.
Bucholz will also compare SPME (solid face microextraction) analyses across a wide range of susceptibility within the Abies genus to identify potential differences and similarities between the various forms of susceptibility (from risk to resistant).