Bloom’n birches

Last changed: 26 April 2021
Birch catkins

Spring has sprung! Skogforsk’s annual pollen harvest has started, and I managed to go and spend a day learning about it.  Mateusz Liziniewicz has some helping hands for this extra work, who were willing to share their knowledge for an afternoon.  The work involves separating the male and female catkins (similar to cones or flowers) to later be crossed together to produce offspring.  Mateusz decides which trees to cross; usually each plus-tree is used two or more times depending on their breeding values.  With COVID preventing the usual supervisor meetups, it was nice to attend a small educational activity with very few people and large outdoor distances (or masks).

Birch trees with bags for isolating female catkins

Erik was putting bags over the female catkins, to isolate them early before they receive any pollen.  Male catkins are removed to avoid trees pollinating themselves in the bags.  Beatrice and Giovani were also helping today, and went through cataloguing which genotypes had female catkins isolated.  Branches with nearly ripe pollen catkins were then cut from selected stems, and placed in the greenhouse to further ripen.  They still need heat and water to ripen, but removing them from the tree avoids pollen being blown away by the wind.

Male catkins are finally moved inside under lamps, where they sit on a sieve above a pan so that their pollen will be collected on the pan.  Once dried, this pollen is then jarred and labelled with the genotype ID.  Once they are matured, a spray tool will be used for pollinating the female catkins.  Here is where the helpers must take care to cross the right trees based on Mateusz’s programme plan.

It was an excellent outing with some hands-on learning, and I got to see the breeding work behind the material in my studies.  As the forests do not stop growing, there are many activities like this still happening, but it becomes much harder to spend the day learning about them.  I would like to thank the people who spent today sharing their work with me, and appreciate the ongoing support of our FRAS friends!

In the lab

by Grace Jones (PhD student at Linnaeus University)