Based on Science - Benefitting Society
Understanding the pine genome will have multiple benefits. Download our two-page summary.
Advanced biofuels Made fuel from forest biomass is superior to starch (food-based) sources for several reasons, including future fuel yield and increased greenhouse gas reductions. The PGI benefits sustainable biofuel efforts by giving researchers a fundamental understanding of the formation of wood in trees. In the near future, much of our biofuels will start in the forest.
Healthy forests are critical to maintain the ecosystem services we take for granted. It would cost a small fortune to engineer systems providing the clean water, air, and recreation that forests give us. Our forests are under attack from invasive species and a changing climate. A conifer genome sequence will give us tools to thwart these threats by breeding robust trees to protect our forests.
More carbon sequestration is possible by developing faster growing trees or ones that assimilate CO2 in the atmosphere more efficiently. Understanding why conifers are the largest and longest living organisms on our planet will help us design trees that are even better at sequestering carbon dioxide. The PGI will give us powerful tools in our fight against a changing climate.
Better forest products are made from better trees. With advanced forest biotechnologies and a decoded pine genome, tree breeders will be able to grow highly specialized trees that are straighter with more usable wood for making lumber. Better, faster growing trees are more profitable for small tree farms, putting the economic incentive back into keeping our lands forested and rural economies flourishing.
And that's not all. Supporting conifer research throught the PGI will also:
- Revolutionize breeding of forest trees
- Restore environmentally sensitive forests and endangered tree species
- Teach us why trees are among the most abundant, largest and longest lived organisms
- Compare ancient gymnosperm with modern angiosperm plants to explain the long-term ecological success of pines
- Obtain insight into plant evolution
- Accelerate the selection process and discover new ways to capture the ecological and economic value in the genetic information
Though conifers have a genome seven times larger than humans, the science of DNA sequencing has advanced to put the pine genome sequence within our reach. We are at a point where the social and environmental benefits far outweigh the costs of decoding the pine-genome. Thanks to the rapid advances in sequencing and grants for conifer genomic research from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE), decoding a representative conifer genome is attainable now. Go to the Deliverables page for details about PGI research and funding.
Why Decode a Pine Genome?
Understanding the biology of pines and other conifer
species is important to maintaining a sustainable forest products market. For example, in the U.S. alone well over 1 billion pines and
other conifers planted annually. By 2040 it is expected these plantations
will provide about 70 percent of the U.S. timber supply. Even today,
timber has the highest annual farm gate value of any crop other than corn.
The emphasis on unlocking the pine genome has advocates throughout the world because an accomplishment in any coniferous forest-tree species will have application to other conifers. Scientific expertise and collaboration is being offered from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, and regions from Asia, Southern Africa, Europe and Scandinavia.