New publications on resistance to spruce budworm and adaptation to drought in white spruce

A study by Beaulieu and collaborators has shown that needle concentration in acetophenone aglycons (secondary metabolites involved in resistance to spruce budworm) could be genetically improved in white spruce using genomic selection, and that this trait could be integrated to multi-trait selection also implicating growth and wood quality (full article here).

A study by Depardieu and collaborators relying on the retrospective analysis of tree-ring and genetic data in 43 natural populations of white spruce has shown that growth resilience after extreme drought events was under genetic control, and that this trait represents a promising avenue for breeders to improve spruce resistance to drought in the context of climate change (full article here).

Virtual Tour – FastTRAC Project

Genomic selection is the latest technology added to the suite of conventional methods for tree improvement. It provides an analysis of genomic profiles to enable determination at a young age of the future value individual trees obtained through breeding. Such analysis supports the selection of the best individuals for particular traits. Thus, new improved varieties of trees are available for reforestation much sooner. Several years of research have made it possible to develop this method and make it operational in spruce breeding programs in Québec and New Brunswick. The FastTRAC project is the catalyst for this shift from science to practice.

A virtual tour will allow you to learn more about the production of spruce seedlings from genomic selection and the operational gains achieved as well as the research behind the innovation. This tour contains six panoramic stations (360-degree images that can be moved horizontally and vertically), 35 vignettes (tooltips), and 9 video clips. Start the virtual tour of the FastTRAC project at

Annual meeting of the FastTRAC project

The third annual meeting of the FastTRAC project was held in Quebec City on October 18-19, 2017. Nearly 30 scientists, partners and collaborators met to discuss progress, address user concerns and ensure that knowledge transfer meets their needs.
On the first day, the genomic selection results on Norway spruce and white spruce data sets were first discussed in depth with the users and additional analyzes needed to meet their needs were identified in order to facilitate the uptake of genomic selection by the users’ breeding programs. In the afternoon, the results of the financial and economic analyzes of various scenarios for the use of improved genetic material were discussed, highlighting the benefits of genomic selection.

On the second day, the participants met in one of the white spruce genetic tests of the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, which was used for research carried out by the FastTRAC project. The participants could continue their exchanges while being able to appreciate the superiority of the trees selected for the white spruce advanced breeding program.


Atef Sahli, new Ph.D. graduate at the Chair

On July 6th 2017, Atef Sahli, Ph.D. candidate in forest sciences at Univ. Laval and member of the Canada Research Chair in Forest Genomics, successfully presented his thesis entitled “Copy number variations in white spruce gene space”. Atef showed the importance of an largely uncharacterized type of large-size genetic polymorphism across the white spruce genome, namely orthologous copy number variations of genes, beyond the strict diploidy of spruces. These variations can influence genes functionality, as well as different phenotypic traits in animal and annual plant species. Using the genotyping results of thousands of samples for thousands of genes, Atef estimated the abundance of these polymorphisms in the white spruce gene space. In particular, he demonstrated that mutation rates were high, with frequent transmission distortions affecting a large number of genes. The evaluation committee consisted of Jean Bousquet, research director (Canada Research Chair in Forest Genomics, Univ. Laval), John Mackay, research co-director (Dept. of Plant Sciences, Univ. of Oxford), Simon Joly, external reviewer (Institut de recherche en biologie végétale and Dept. of Biological Sciences at the Univ. of Montreal), François Belzile, internal reviewer (Faculty of Agriculture and Institute for Integrative Systems Biology, Univ. Laval), and Ilga Porth, internal reviewer (Canada Research Chair in Forest Genomics, Univ. Laval). The defense was chaired by Nancy Gélinas, vice-dean of studies at the Faculty of Forestry, Geography and Geomatics of Univ. Laval. Congratulations Atef!


Spruce-Up launching its activities

Spruce-Up (Advanced spruce genomics for productive and resilient forests) is a large-scale national project with goal to use genomics to accelerate the development and deployment of spruce stocks that are more resistant to insects and drought, use nutrients more efficiently and provide improved wood quality and productivity. Spruces are by far the most planted trees in Canada, with hundreds of million of seedlings per year. The natural genetic diversity of spruces is high, which allows for the selection of improved stocks using conventional and now genomic methods. The rapid deployment of such improved stocks should more than double the net economic output value from plantations by increasing the value of new trees and reducing losses due to environmental disturbances in a context of climate change. The project is funded by a large number of organizations including Genome Canada, Genome Québec, Genome BC and Genome Alberta. It gathers research scientists from Université Laval, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, University of Oxford in England and Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany, as well as research scientists and tree breeders from Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Québec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Forest Products Innovations and British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.Spruce-Up logo