Genomics of Heterosis

In Oregon and many other parts of the world, hybrids between species of poplars are used for wood, pulp, and energy plantations. These hybrids have enormous rates of growth and high stress tolerance, however, the biological reason for these traits is unknown. We are using cutting edge genome sequencing methods to test if the fastest growing hybrids have fewer natural gene losses, and if such genome knowledge can be used to make hybrid selection during breeding—a 15 year process—faster and more accurate. We are also studying a number of physiological indicators of tree stress to see if hybrids are indeed more stress tolerant, and if those measures help to predict growth rate. A summary of a USDA funded grant on this work can be found here.