Invasive species pose a significant threat to Canadian forests, tree farms and nurseries. The evidence is all around us – blighted leaves, spotted needles, bare branches, cankered stems – all proof that an increasing number of both young and mature trees are succumbing to invasive pests. Paramount in efficiently preventing and managing disease is the identification of infections agents and their origin.
Dr. Richard Hamelin from Natural Resources Canada and the University of British Columbia has developed genomic tools that allow for the identification of pathogens in what appear to be healthy plants and trees.
Traditional techniques used to isolate and identify pathogens take weeks to perform, precious time that forest professionals just don’t have when dangerous pathogens like sudden oak death are detected in a foreign shipment. And, by looking only for known pathogens, unknown ones can slip through. Hamelin’s project Genomics Based Forest Health Diagnostics and Monitoring, is providing tools to detect known and novel pathogens in real time, preventing an imported infectious sapling from finding its way into a Canadian nursery or forest. The project is already making waves in the forest sector and is expected to generate significant economic benefits through the reduction of losses to forest diseases.
Within the first year, the project ran approximately 10,000 tests on samples for several end-users, including BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations (MFL), the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources, and the cities of Victoria and West Vancouver. These test detect and map pathogen and provide risk assessments. Based on the results of the results generated by this project, the MFL is considering how the exotic poplar canker pathogen could be eradicated to protect planted and natural poplars on the West Coast.
For more information visit the project’s website: http://taigaforesthealth.com/Home.aspx