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Cedar Enhanced Durability and Resistance (CEDaR): Sustainability of Canada’s Western Redcedar Forestry Sector

  • Project Leaders: Joerg Bohlmann, Alvin Yanchuk
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $2150779
  • Program/Competition: Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP)
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome Canada
  • Fiscal Year: 2016
  • Status: Closed

Canada’s $1.1B iconic western redcedar (WRC) export industry is facing a precipitous decline, as the durable and aesthetically appealing timber supply moves from old growth to second growth and faces climate-driven challenges. The overall goal of this project was to develop genomic tools for more rapid and efficient breeding to ensure that the next generation of second growth WRC produces wood of a high durability and volume, and is more resistant to ungulate damage, relative to natural regeneration.

The project, led by UBC professor Joerg Bohlmann and researchers from BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations & Rural Development (BC FLNRORD), delivered a validated and innovative genomic selection (GS) method for WRC breeding. The ministry is currently using the model for genotype selection, and ultimately plans to use it for seed orchard production for enhanced economic value (volume growth, wood durability) – advancing 30 years ahead of current traditional breeding approaches for these wood traits. Using trees selected by the GS model as parents, within seven years, the provincial WRC breeding program will be able to produce improved seed to supply the annual 8M seedlings – an industry requirement for WRC reforestation on the crown land. In the longer term these trees, will have improved resistance to wood pathogens, and when harvested will deliver more durable wood for manufactures.

The genomic resources developed in the CEDaR project will be a valuable legacy for the future of WRC germplasm management in BC. The GS model can expand to include other important pest resistant traits, like browsing wildlife and fungal pathogens. This project was one of the first operational GS projects in conifers in the world and ensures a stable supply of improved WRC seedlings for operational reforestation in BC, thereby elevating the economic benefits of redcedar resource for decades to come.

The GS models will be used to rapidly and accurately select seedlings for increased volume, wood durability and pest resistance (wildlife browsing and foliar pathogens). Vegetative copies of these seedlings will be planted in the industry-owned WRC seed orchards on southern Vancouver Island and within 7 years after project completion, these orchards are expected to have reached an annual production capacity to meet the demand of ~ 8 M trees for reforestation for the entire annual WRC planting program across BC. This effort also has the potential to result in earlier merchantable volume (10-20 years) through selection for wildlife browse resistance and leaf pathogen resistance.