[ASC-media] CSIRO: Scientists to sequence Eucalyptus genome

Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au
Thu Jul 5 01:15:09 CEST 2007


July 4 2007
Ref: 07/123

Scientists to sequence Eucalyptus genome

An ambitious international effort has been launched today to decode the
genome of Eucalyptus, one of the world's most valuable fibre and
paper-producing trees.

The scientific effort to characterize the Eucalyptus genome, uniting
some two dozen institutions world-wide, is led by Alexander Myburg of
the University of Pretoria in South Africa, with the support of the U.S.
Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute.  The information will be
made freely available over the Worldwide Web. 

Australian researchers will also be among the first to collaborate on
the new research project.  Dr Simon Southerton from Ensis, along with
colleagues from the CRC for Forestry, played an integral part in the
development of the proposal to the U.S Department of Energy.

Ensis is the unincorporated joint venture between CSIRO and New Zealand
Crown Research Institute, Scion.

"This important and bold initiative will have long-term benefits for
both the Australian plantation sector and the conservation of our native
forests," said Dr Southerton. "It will also considerably hasten the pace
of research."

Ensis' current project to identify over 100 Eucalyptus genes that
influence wood development is one activity set to benefit from this
international program.  Ensis, with support from the Forest and Wood
Products Research and Development Corporation, are looking for links
between alleles in genes in order to understand why Eucalypts are
different. 

"We are identifying the trees that have superior genes that influence
the way wood is developed.  Qualities like wood stiffness, density, pulp
yield, responsiveness to stresses such as salt and drought and overall
growth rates will be linked with particular genes, making future
breeding programs more efficient," said Dr Southerton. "Key issues such
as climate change and environmental remediation will also be positively
impacted by the increased knowledge of this important species" he said.

Eucalyptus is Australia's contribution to the world's forest industries
and virtually all Eucalypts are endemic to Australia.  The genus,
comprising over 700 different species, includes some of the fastest
growing woody plants in the world.  At approximately 18 million hectares
in 90 countries, it is one of the most widely planted genus of
plantation forest trees in the world. 

The international sequencing program will be coordinated by the
Eucalyptus Genome Network, EUCAGEN, involving more than 130 scientists
from 18 countries.  

Dr Simon Southerton, who heads tree molecular breeding research in
Ensis, said the availability of the genome sequence will accelerate
progress in understanding the genetic control of wood properties which
in turn determines the profitability of Eucalypt plantations world wide.

"This expands our horizons considerably and will turn our Hottest 100
project into the Hottest 1000, benefiting the forest industry
enormously," he said.

Further Information:

Dr Simon Southerton, Ensis
Mobile: +61 (0) 413 001 614
Simon.Southerton at ensisjv.com 
Media Assistance:

Indra Tomic, CSIRO
Phone: +61 (0) 3 9545 2236
Indra.Tomic at csiro.au 
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Beck Eveleigh
Media Assistant
CSIRO Media Liaison
6276 6451
0409 395 010
 



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