Scientists say they have successfully cloned American elm trees that survived epidemics of Dutch elm disease, a fungal infection that has decimated the iconic tree species across eastern Canada and the U.S. Using tissue
samples collected from shoot tips and dormant buds, researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada employed in vitro technology to produce genetic copies of trees that survived multiple Dutch elm disease outbreaks. From those clones, they are now working to isolate germplasm with desired traits — including resistance to Dutch elm disease, which impedes water transport and nutrient flow in the infected trees — for future elm breeding and biotechnology programs, which could lead to a revival of the species in its former habitat. “It may also serve as a model to help propagate and preserve thousands of other endangered plant species at risk of extinction across the globe,” said Praveen Saxena, a plant scientist and one of the authors of the study, published in The Canadian Journal of Forest Research.