His scientific accomplishments have revealed fundamental molecular mechanisms of regulation of flowering time and indicated how molecular signals help trees to adapt to the changing seasons. The use of these advances could substantially accelerate the breeding of trees via rapid induction of flowering with enviromental safeguards. This in turn offers the potential for more rapid and enhanced yields of forest raw materials and thus increased forest production worldwide.
The traditonal tree breeding process is hampered by the fact that it takes a long time before many trees flower for the first time, e.g. for Scots pine and Norway spruce it takes 15-20 years. Genetic improvement has been immense compared to that for forest trees because most agricultural crops flower within a year or less.
Ove Nilsson found that the same control system for flowering seems to act in a variety of plants, from small herbs to large trees. Ove Nilsson and his colleagues have identified a messenger molecule “florigen”, which is produced in the leaves and transported to the buds, triggered by long days and short nights, as occur in spring. Without this messenger molecule the bud would develop into lead but with it, flowers will be formed. The same substance also controls the budset which occurs when day length decreases in the autumn. The FT messenger molecule can make poplars flower precociously when they are only a few weeks old.
The FT messenger molecule will be transferred at the earliest stage of the breeding program but after flowering, breeding will follow the traditional path. It will also be possible to remove the gene before the seeds or the seedlings reach the forest. The ability to control the cessation of floweing will decrease the risk of spreading unwanted genes to surrounding forests.
The discoveries by Ove Nilsson and his co-workers will allow the brreding program to be shortened substantially and trees with the desired properties will be produced at a much more rapid rate. This implies a higher yield from the forest and also the possibility to design trees for specific site conditions and uses in a quicker way with greater annual gain per year. It will also be of vital importance for potential new businesses based on renewable materials such as chemicals, energy and fuels, composites or other materials.
About Ove Nilsson: Ove Nilson is a Swedish citizen, 42 years old, professor and director of the Centre for Plant Development Biology at Umeå Plant Science Centre, Sweden. His is Professor at the Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Faculty of Forest Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He defended his thesis in 1995 and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Salk Institute, California, during which time he co-authored several papers for nature. Since his return to Sweden in 1998, he and his colleagues have published several articles in Science, one which was ranked as the third most importnat globally in the year 2005. Ove Nilsson has also been very active in the newly started spin-off company SweTree Technologies, a forest biotechnology company based on scientific innovations, in which three of Sweden´s largest forest-owning companies are investors.
The Prize will be presented by His Majesty The King of Sweden, at a ceremony in Stockholm in the autumn. The ceremony will be followed by a symposium around the subject of the Prize-winner and his impact on the forest and forest products industries.
The annual Prize was established in 1980 to acknowledge the lifetime activities and the memory of Marcus Wallenberg, the late Chairman of Stora Kopparbergs bergslags AB (now Stora Enso). Each year the Prize recognizes a single breakthrough research achievment of one scientist or a small group of collaborating scientists. In the view of the Prize Selection Committee and The Board of the Foundation, the selected breakthrough will have a significant effect on the industries. While rewarding the winner, the Prize is also intended to stimulate further research around the world.
For more information about the Marcus Wallenberg Prize, please visit www.mwp.org
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