Sappi Tree Biotechnology: Programme Leader
- PhD Botany
I manage a research programme aimed at developing various biotechnological tools to accelerate the breeding of forest tree species and to then propagate the selected trees.
This involves using DNA markers, across the tree genome, to predict how trees will perform in the field. This is done by collecting leaf samples from young seedlings and extracting their DNA so that we can determine their genetic blueprint.
Genomic models have been developed that allow us to predict the performance of an individual tree, based on its marker profile. In this way we can begin to predict how a tree will perform in the field, when it is still only a seedling. This means that we can more easily select trees that grow well or are more resistant to pests and diseases, without having to test trees that are less likely to perform well. This makes our tree breeding process more efficient and allows us to test more of the better trees, speeding up our tree improvement process.
We can then take selected, top-performing trees and propagate them clonally using a tissue culture system. This technique allows us to rapidly multiply plants in a sterile, laboratory environment, by providing all the nutrients and supplements required to regenerate plants to feed our commercial nurseries.
“Be passionate, be determined, have a good attitude, work hard, show your potential and things will happen for you.”