The state of Canada’s forests health and productivity is a critical factor determining the competitiveness of the forest industry. Genomic technologies have significant potential to expand the range of management options for shaping future forests. For example, the application of marker-assisted selection (MAS) could lead to more uniformity in tree form and properties, higher growth rates, resistance to insects or diseases, and improved wood properties for specific high-value applications. These improvements would result in higher forest valuations, reduced production risk, and efficiency gains in timber harvesting and forest products manufacturing. However, for genomic tools to realize their full potential, it is essential to establish strong linkages between genomic markers, targeted traits, and their specific impacts on the wood products value chain.
Previous GE3LS research activities in Arborea and Treenomix already contributed through economic analyses of the expected benefits relating to wood yield and insect resistance, and examined the political context and issues related to acceptance and perception. The GE3LS research of the SMarTForest project advanced in this track (see Figure below). We initially focused on examining the impacts of marker technologies on economic attributes such as tree growth, tree quality, and insect resistance. These case studies were used to develop and implement decision support tools and frameworks to assess the impacts of the deployment of forest genomic tools at the operational level. More specifically, we modeled and analyzed the relevant economic and institutional/market conditions. Since institutional/market acceptance is vital to the success of a wider scale deployment of MAS programs, we also examined the barriers and opportunities for its deployment. We measured, appraised and looked for feedback from end-users using surveys to improve the genetic marker systems proposed and their responsible implementation.
- Quantify the impacts of using genomics-based marker technologies in tree breeding, through a) broad scale simulations of anticipated gains in productivity or product quality; and b) economic analyses of the portfolio of wood products that could be produced.
- Develop a supply chain simulation/optimization tool for "genetically selected plantations" for forest and community managers.
- Survey the challenges/feasibility of potential end-users of genetic marker systems and improved varieties.
- Survey and compare the legal and policy instruments that could impact the use of MAS in provincial jurisdictions.
Design of the GE3LS program
The GE3LS research team developed and implemented decision support tools and frameworks to assess the impacts of the deployment of forest genomic tools at the operational and stand levels. Specific activities aimed at modeling and analyzing the relevant economic and institutional/market conditions by quantifying the impacts of using marker technologies in tree breeding worked on a better understanding of the field application in Canada and by analysing the legal and policy barriers/opportunities for the use of genomic tools.