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This article is part of the Research Topic

​​Forest Genomics and Biotechnology

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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00273

The Road to Resistance Engineering in Forest Trees

 Sanushka Naidoo1, 2*,  Bernard Slippers1, 2, Jonathan M. Plett3,  Donovin Coles3 and Caryn N. Oates1, 2
  • 1Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • 2Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • 3Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Australia

In recent years, forests have been exposed to an unprecedented rise in pests and pathogens. This, coupled with the added challenge of climate change, renders forest plantation stock vulnerable to attack and severely limits productivity. Genotypes resistant to such biotic challenges are desired in plantation forestry to reduce losses. Conventional breeding has been a main avenue to obtain resistant genotypes. More recently, genetic engineering has become a viable approach to develop resistance against pests and pathogens in forest trees. Tree genomic resources have contributed to advancements in both these approaches. Genome-wide association studies and genomic selection in tree populations have accelerated breeding tools whilst integration of various levels of omics information facilitates the selection of candidate genes for genetic engineering. Furthermore, tree associations with non-pathogenic endophytic and subterranean microbes play a critical role in plant health and may be engineered in forest trees to improve resistance in the future. We look at recent studies in forest trees describing defence mechanisms using such approaches and propose the way forward to developing superior genotypes with enhanced resistance against biotic stress.

Keywords: Genomics, Systems Biology, candidate genes, Endophytes, pathogens

Received: 07 Aug 2018; Accepted: 19 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Steven H. Strauss, Oregon State University, United States

Reviewed by:

Armand Seguin, Canadian Forest Service, Canada
Richard Buggs, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom
John M. Davis, University of Florida, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Naidoo, Slippers, Plett, Coles and Oates. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Sanushka Naidoo, University of Pretoria, Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, Pretoria, 0002, Gauteng, South Africa, sanushka.naidoo@fabi.up.ac.za