Maple producers eye cloning of high sugar maple trees

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The concentration of sugar in the sap of maple trees varies year-to-year, by environment, planting site, and the genetics of individual trees.

Researchers have revealed results of their study involving a project wherein they have looked at the opportunity to clone high sugar maple trees thereby enabling maple producers to enhance their sugarmaking operations.

The research by Cornell University plant pathologist Keith L. Perry and colleagues notes that if maple producers are offered the opportunity to plant and harvest trees that naturally have higher sugar sap concentrations, they will see increased productivity with reduced cost. The team behind the study is looking at the possibility of cloning ‘sweet trees’ and propagating that generation paving way for nursery crop industry as well.

The concentration of sugar in the sap of maple trees varies year-to-year, by environment, planting site, and the genetics of individual trees.

Scientists have already previously worked to identify high sugar-producing trees in a number of states in the US and Canada. The team behind the latest study has established buds from a high sugar-producing mother tree in vitro in sterile media. This is the first step toward clonally propagating maple trees with any desired trait, including high sugar concentration.

A total of 433 buds were removed from the cuttings, surface-sterilized, and put onto sterile tissue culture media in the laboratory at the Cornell Uihlein Foundation Seed Potato Farm, directed by Perry. As of December 31, 2017, three buds, representing three separate clonal lines, were alive and growing well.

The researchers divided them into a total of seven plants. The lessons learned so far about how to improve bud collection to enhance survivability have been identified for use in 2018 to establish additional plant lines from other high sugar trees.

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