Somatic Embryos of Conifers -ready for germination
Example of Pinus radiata: Embryos were produced in vitro from zygotic embryos and are genetically identical
Somatic plants of conifers -ready for planting
Example of Picea abies: Shoot buds were used to initiate somatic embryogensis
Multi-varietal forestry
Combining suitable clone mixtures to establish genetically divers, climate adapted and economical forests
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Expected results
Quality and innovativeness
The consortium has long-standing R&D activities and cooperation in the field of conifer somatic embryogenesis. The quality and innovative, sometime breakthrough aspects of MULTIFOREVER is relying on:
  • Partners’ published and/or patented work recognized worldwide from fundamental to applied studies towards expertise in all aspects of somatic embryogenesis in conifers  including up-scaling and automation.
  • the development of an operative multinational plan supported by stakeholders for the design and implementation of the first pilot facility for EU-wide, cost-effective somatic embryo production (based on WP2 and WP4 up-scaling developments)
  • data collection from existing field trials of somatic trees and establishment of new ones (WP3). Field tests are highly valuable to both scientists/breeders (exploitation of data) and forest actors (exploitation of results). Currently, there are only a few trials available worldwide for conifers, some by partners of this project (FCBA, HUB, LUKE) for ca. 20 years.
  • international, multispecies joint efforts of leading experts to initiate somatic embryogenesis directly from vegetative explants of selected trees (WP1). The ability to directly propagate trees (without the need for seeds) would considerably shorten the timeframe for selection and deployment of new varieties in conifers.
Considering not only technological opportunities, but also the needs for raising both professional and public awareness and acceptance, significant efforts are planned (WP5) to promote multi-varietal forestry based on somatic embryogenesis through conventional (publications, surveys), online (webpage) and on-site (technical days) strategies.
communication
Public relation via Newsletters and Stakeholder-oriented articles:

Our sponsor, the ERA-NET Cofund Action ‚ForestValue’ (FV) is releasing a newsletter twice per year, where recent news about ongoing activities, events, calls etc. within the ForestValue consortium and the forest-based  bioeconomy sector are published. You are warmly invited to SUBSCRIBE TO FORESTVALUE NEWSLETTER.

Running projects were invited to contribute to the FV Newsletter from June 2019 - 2 month MULTIFOREVER officially had begun.

In Newsletter #3, we refer to the long-standing R&D activities and cooperation in the field of conifer somatic embryogenesis. Newsletter #4 refers to the kick-off-meeting of all project members in Berlin in May 2019. Further contributions are related to specific approaches and results: In Newsletter #5 we describe the set-up of the field trials (WP3); in #6 progress on drought stress ‘memory’ of trees (WP2) and in #7 we show the potential of buds for somatic embryogenesis initiation (WP1). In Newsletter #8 we explain the necessity of a world-wide cooperation for a common goal, it is dedicated to our Argentinian partner, INTA.

As it is one of our main intensions to directly approach our stakeholders (foresters, breeders, wood owners), we are summarizing our news in specific stakeholder-oriented articles. Article 1 explains the benefits of a multi-varietal forestry (“Multi-varietal plantation forestry of conifers as chance for the future?”). Article 2 demonstrates our network of field trials in the frame of the project (“Somatic seedlings at field as the first cross-European perspective for conifer multi-varietal forestry”).

The Institut Européen de la Forêt Cultivée (IEFC) serves as important network for sustainable management of planted forests. In this frame, we describe our endevour and explain "How to accelerate breeding and afforestation efforts with valuable conifers? “.

Scientific publications:

Conifer trees are able to memorize stress experienced during early development:

When pine cells, on their way to becoming somatic embryos, experience high temperatures (‘priming’), tolerance to abiotic stress, like drought, can be expressed months later, i.e. when these embryos become trees. Hereby, a complex crosstalk between plant hormones and epigenetics is assumed. Recent results show that cytokinins could be crucial in this process. You can learn more about these results in a number of recent MULTIFOREVER publications mainly provided by our partners from NEIKER, Spain (Castander-Olarieta et al. in Tree Physiology & in Trees - Structure and Function  & in Frontiers in Plant Science & in Plants; Marques do Nascimento et al. in Forests; Pereira et al., in Forests & in Forests & Plants). The colleagues from FCBA, France and HUB, Germany commented the temperature-induced priming effects during early embryogenesis (Trontin et al., Tree Physiology).

Further, the effect of the initiation conditions on the further development of hybrid pine embryos was retraced (Montalbán et al., Forests).

A Fluidic system to harvest and characterise cotyledonary somatic embryos:

A SE Fluidics system has been established and used to survey cotyledonary somatic embryos with the
goal of further refining the selection criteria for germination-competent mature embryos (Le et al., Biosystems Engineering).

Interest in vegetatively propagated Norway spruce materials – a survey among Finnish forest owners and professionals:

In this survey, perceptions of forest owners and professionals towards tree breeding and vegetative propagation were investigated. The respondents valued the most: improved pest and pathogen resistance, improved resilience of forest in changing climate, and securing the species’ gene pool. Responses indicated that forest owners would be willing to pay more for the improved traits in forest regeneration material. The current novel study provides a foundation to concern public awareness regarding tree breeding and vegetative propagation in the future (Tikkinen et al., Silva Fennica).

Long term impact of our approach
Industrial, societal, environmental relevance

Forests and forest-wood sector are key players towards de-carbonation of the economy worldwide and mitigation of climate change. Plantation forestry with fast-growing, productive and more successful conifers (pines, larches, Douglas-fir, spruces …) is an essential component of a sustainable, bio-based economy in EU for the past 150 years. A similar trend is observed in Argentina concomitantly to the rapid conversion of natural forests into agricultural lands.

More effective, dynamic management of planted forests, especially intensively managed plantation forests is expected to:

  • increase production of renewable wood materials and fibers for traditional and novel applications
  • alleviate pressure on natural forests and semi-natural forests for wood production
  • allow for more forest areas for conservation purposes
  • reduce greenhouse gas emission (carbon sequestration in trees, wood and forest soil)
  • prevent greenhouse gas emission (using wood towards material and energy substitution)
  • increase the flexibility to adapt forests to climate change
  • provide many other ecosystem services at both local and landscaping levels
  •  maintain or even increase wood production in plantation forest while maintaining selected diversity levels
  • rescue and reproduce valuable tree species and varieties when only limited seed sources are available
  • help establish secured, static collections of the valuable genetic resources for use in the future as somatic embryogenesis is amenable to low-cost cryopreservation techniques

As there is a world surge in forest-wood product and high pressure on land availability due to both human activities and climate change, multi-varietal forestry based on somatic embryogenesis is a promising strategy to:

  • maintain or even increase wood production in plantation forest while maintaining selected diversity levels
  • rescue and reproduce valuable tree species and varieties when only limited seed sources are available
  • help establish secured, static collections of the valuable genetic resources for use in the future as somatic embryogenesis is amenable to low-cost cryopreservation techniques
  •  maintain or even increase wood production in plantation forest while maintaining selected diversity levels
  • rescue and reproduce valuable tree species and varieties when only limited seed sources are available
  • help establish secured, static collections of the valuable genetic resources for use in the future as somatic embryogenesis is amenable to low-cost cryopreservation techniques
Technological Advances to bring somatic embryos into the field
A bottleneck

mature somatic embryos of conifer species have multiple cotyledons, a root pol and hypocotyl inbetween. Even though these embryos are clonally propagated, not all are developed correctly – are too crooked, have severly fused cotyledons or other aberations. For a successful germination embryos have to fulfil certain morphological criteria. Normally this manual labour step is very time consuming so technological solutions