USDA awards NC State $3 million for domestication of pine

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $3 million grant to a team of scientists at North Carolina State University's College of Natural Resources to research the breeding and genetics of the loblolly pine, one of the Southeast's most economically important tree species.

The multidisciplinary team of tree geneticists, wood chemists and tree breeders, led by Dr. Hou-min Chang, NC State professor of pulp and paper science, will work to develop the first strains of loblolly pine that can be grown quickly for specific products, such as boards and paper pulp.

Dr. Ronald Sederoff, NC State professor of forestry and one of the principal investigators for the grant, explained that the ultimate goal of the project is to domesticate the fast-growing loblolly pine. That, he said, will help the Southeast maintain its position as the world's major supplier of industrial wood, which is being challenged by wood-producing regions of the Southern Hemisphere.

Additionally, Sederoff said, the research will have environmental benefits, because raising fast-growing trees on pine plantations will mean less logging in natural forests. "Population growth in the United States and around the world is increasing the demand for wood products," he said. "Taking that wood from natural forests would result in serious deterioration of biodiversity, wildlife habitat and recreational potential. To protect natural forests and still meet the need for wood products, we have to grow more wood on less land."

The four-year grant was awarded through the USDA's new Initiative for the Future of Agriculture and Food Systems. The program was created by Congress to distribute research, extension and education competitive grants to projects addressing emerging agricultural issues, including forestry.

Dr. John Kadla, assistant professor of wood chemistry at NC State, said one of the researchers' goals is to allow Southeastern landowners tobacco farmers looking

Contact: Kevin Potter
North Carolina State University

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