Key lessons from resistant tree breeding programmes in the Northern Hemisphere

To inform emerging initiatives, we explored five programmes that aimed to develop trees resistant to specific pests or pathogens. These case studies show resistant tree programmes are a medium to long-term approach requiring sustained investment, and can encounter substantial difficulties in developing and maintaining resistance. Equally, adequately resourced and well-planned programmes have resulted in operational deployment of resistant trees.

Context Developing trees that are resistant to specific pests and pathogens is an increasingly prominent strategy for responding to this escalating threat. It is therefore important to ensure decisions to use resistant trees and approaches to development are well-informed.
Aims We aimed to provide insights for newer or proposed resistant tree breeding programmes by identifying key lessons from earlier programmes, some of which date back several decades.
Methods We selected five mature programmes as case studies, and in each case synthesised information from key publications and by following citations to original sources. We examined the objectives, methods, problems, successes and timescales in each programme.
Results Resistant tree breeding is generally a medium to long-term approach requiring sustained investment and co-ordination, although culturally valued species can attract considerable support from volunteers. Deployment of resistant trees often recommends maintaining genetic variation and mixing with other tree species. Substantial costs and loss of confidence in future material can arise if resistance breaks down or resistant material is susceptible to other threats.
Conclusion The case studies illustrate success is not guaranteed, but also provide evidence that adequately resourced and well-planned resistant tree programmes can contribute to strategies to mitigate impacts from pests and pathogens.

Tree breeding, Fungi, Herbivore, Insect, Disease, Forest management

Woodcock, P., Marzano, M. & Quine, C.P. Annals of Forest Science (2019) 76: 51.

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Data availability
This study did not produce novel data, but the extracted information is fully presented in the tables provided.

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