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Swedish Team Receives $10.5 Million to Characterize Spruce Genome

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A Swedish research team has secured a SEK75 million ($10.5 million) grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation to sequence and characterize the Norway spruce genome.

The team — which includes researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Umeå University's Umeå Plant Science Center, the Royal Institute of Technology, and the Karolinska Institute — hopes the spruce genome project will lead to a clearer understanding of conifer genes and their function.

Conifers are thought to have survived on Earth for millions years. But the genetics behind this adaptation is poorly understood, partly due to the massive size of conifer genomes. In general, conifers contain twelve chromosomes housing seven times as much DNA as the human genome.

Those involved predict that the spruce genome research will improve their understanding of important tree traits. And, they say, characterizing the genome could offer clues for tackling a range of issues affecting Sweden's forestry industry — from root rot and the pine weevil to climate change.

"The genetics of the spruce are truly exciting," Umeå Plant Science Center researcher Pär Ingvarsson, who is directing the project, said in a statement. "[W]hile Swedish forest genetics has always been prominent, this constitutes a giant step forward in the work to achieve tree nursery material that is adapted to the very different conditions that prevail in our country, above all in the time of climate change we are facing."

The Swedish researchers are also collaborating with investigators from Canada, Italy, and Belgium on the spruce project, which is expected to take between four and five years to complete.

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