Modern Belarusian genetics in the service of forestry

Belarusian scientists able to determine tree locations from DNA
By Tatiana Grishanovich

The Forestry Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus has made great progress in the sphere of genetics and biotechnologies, now determining the location of trees from DNA samples. Oak woods have been given genetic passports, explains Alexander Kovalevich, the Director of the Forestry Institute. Specialists have found five major maternal lineages which create oak woods, allowing seed zoning to be decided; this can be used to make recommendations regarding the planting of new forests.

“This information allows us to say in which region a tree grew; even timber processed into furniture can have its DNA coded,” notes Mr. Kovalevich. The benefits include aiding law enforcement, since the legality of timber sources can be determined.
In fact, around 30 percent of Swedish forests are grown from Belarusian seeds; in the south of the country, this figure reaches 70 percent, as our fir trees grow 25 percent more effectively than native Swedish varieties. Over the last forty years, around 150 tonnes of European fir tree seeds have been sold to Sweden. Today, 1kg of seeds costs about 200 Euros, creating significant revenue. As Belarusian seeds have adapted well in Sweden, they are likely to grow well in bordering Russian regions, allowing Belarus to offer sales.

The National Academy of Sciences’ Forestry Institute was founded in 1930 and is the only specialised scientific research institute governing the innovative development of the country’s forestry. It has developed legislation for the industry and has introduced over 50 sci-tech developments annually over the last fifty years.
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