Over the past 15 years there has been remarkable progress in the field of biotechnology worldwide. Chinese agricultural, horticultural and forestal research has employed biotechnical methods very successfully (Huang et al. 2004). However, the Western world has not always fully realised the extent of these developments.
This chapter aims to provide a short review of research in - and use of - genetically modified trees in China, with the main focus on forest trees and on work that developed in a bilateral collaboration between groups in China (Beijing, Baoding) and Germany (Waldsieversdorf) for more than ten years. For the authors this is a first attempt to evaluate the present situation in such a large country. Addressed are also some facts concerning aspects of rules and regulations for this field of research and its subsequent commercial use. This only depicts the present situation, as the process of elaboration of rules and regulations is still going on in China, as it is in other countries (Wang 2004). Some results from Taiwan concerning trans-genic trees are also included.
After first successes with agricultural plants, modern methods of biotechnology, including genetic engineering, were extended by Chinese researchers to woody species to shorten the time needed for breeding. Although the classical breeding programmes have been continued, a new focus was placed on the introduction of molecular methods. A IUFRO workshop "Advances in tree development control and biotechnique" held in 1993 in Beijing summarized the state of the art in China at that time (Wang 1993).
Some of the main problems confronting Chinese agriculture and forestry are insect pests, plant diseases and environmental stress such as, e.g., drought (Xiang et al. 1995) and locally high soil salinity. Also there was - and still is -an urgent need to satisfy the country's increasing demand for wood and wood products. China is now, according to an FAO paper, the largest importer of
1 Bundesforschungsanstalt für Forst-und Holzwirtschaft, Institut für Forstgenetik und Forstpflanzenzüchtung, Waldsieversdorf, Germany
2 Research Institute for Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, P. R. China
3 Yang, Minsheng, Forestry College, Agricultural University of Hebei, Baoding, P. R. China
M.Fladung and D.Ewald (Eds.)
Tree Transgenesis: Recent Developments
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006
industrial logs and the second largest importer of forest products in the world (Lu 2004). At the same time, the protection of natural forests, which had become necessary because of the severe ecological impact of deforestation in the past, contributed to a shortage in wood production. Therefore considerable afforestation programmes were started, which, apart from wood production, aimed at different purposes, such as the protection of large areas against desertification. These afforestation programmes required high quality plant material (Weisgerber et al. 1995). Right from the beginning a central element in these programmes was breeding. It was initially aimed to increase the growth rate in trees and later on focused on wood improvement (Han 1995). Besides conventional breeding methods, the transfer of foreign genes into trees offered a chance to improve the tree crop while shortening breeding periods. Especially fast growing broadleaved tree species such as poplar and eucalyptus were the target species for gene transfer. These species are mainly propagated vegetatively and used for shorter rotation periods. In some cases difficulties in vegetative propagation of poplar were overcome by an improved rooting behaviour after an Agrobacterium rhizogenes transformation (Zheng et al. 1995). One of the first transformations in poplar in China with the help of Agrobacterium was reported by Wang et al. (1990).
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