Biomarkers & Genetic Markers for InsecResistance

This activity built on long-term investments to develop resistant spruce trees through selection and breeding, and on previous Genome Canada investments to identify mechanisms of spruce resistance to insects. The focus of this activity was on spruce resistance against weevils (Pissodes strobi), which has been developed as the most advanced model for insect resistance breeding in conifers. The white pine weevil (Pissodes strobi) is a substantial risk for reforestation of spruce in Canada and the US. Other weevil species are major forest pests in Europe. Threats from weevils and other pests are increasing due to climate related extension of range and invasion of non-native pests. In Western Canada, we were concerned with weevil resistance in both Sitka spruce and Interior Spruce, while in Eastern Canada we investigated weevil resistance for Norway spruce seedling production and plantations. The knowledge and tools gained from work on weevil resistance in spruce allowed breeders to assess broader applications for other pest systems as well.

The SMarTForests project represented a unique opportunity to translate knowledge from previous work into practical applications. Based on knowledge of conifer defense systems, we developed both diagnostic biomarkers and genetic markers for rapid assessment of several of these traits to accelerate cost effective parent and offspring selection in molecular breeding.


  1. Identification of resistance mechanisms, genes, proteins and metabolites.
  2. Development of diagnostic biomarkers for insect resistance.
  3. Discovery and validation of genetic markers for insect resistance and growth.
  4. Technology transfer of biomarker and genetic markers for insect resistance.

This activity aimed to deliver diagnostic biomarkers and genetic markers for spruce resistance to insects. We used candidate metabolites, proteins, and genes as well as candidate SNP markers, along with materials from end users, combined with prior knowledge and genomics from previous Treenomix and Arborea research as inputs. The unique opportunity of this project was to advance marker discovery and validation, including testing for their predictive power in tree selection and breeding and to quantify their impact on lumber value recovery. Diagnostic biomarkers and genetic markers for insect resistance were developed in collaboration with, and transferred to, organizations involved in tree breeding, including the participating end users.