Welcome to our Laboratory

Here at Maelor we have a state of the art laboratory complete with laminar airflow hood, autoclave, ultra-low freezers etc. It was established with the help of world renowned Tissue Culturist and Tree Breeding expert Dr David Thompson with the aim of producing thousands of stock plants for VP production from a single embryo/seed using a process called somatic embryogenesis (SE).

Download our Somatic Embryogenesis Overview.

What is somatic embryogenesis?

Somatic embryogenesis (SE) is the process of deriving an embryo from somatic cells. This process mimics the natural processes that occur in development of seeds in the cones of a tree, however, somatic embryos do not contain seed coats or megagametophytes like zygotic embryos and the process is carried out in the controlled settings of a laboratory.

Why are we doing somatic embryogenesis?

SE is a desirable tool in forestry as it allows the large-scale propagation of genetically identical plants without the issues associated with cuttings and seeds. Trees taken from seed lack uniformity as each seed is genetically distinct and one seed will only produce one tree. Somatic embryogenesis uses just one seed to produce thousands and potentially thousands of genetically identical emblings. All of the processes in SE are carried out in the sterile environment of the laboratory.

With the development of technology and bioreactors there is also the possibility of complete automation of the process to further increase efficiency, yield and cost effectiveness. SE derived stock plants are juvenile so cuttings taken from them have less tendency to develop plagiotropism unlike cuttings taken from traditional stock hedges. Another application of SE is creation of hybrid spruces with unique genetics and characteristics. These can be tested in forest trials to identify plants which have gained traits that allow them to grow more ably in challenging environments. For example, plants that can grow in areas with dryer soil are selected with a view to developing plants that can withstand the pressures of climate change. It has been observed in the lab at the cell stage that these hybrids may exhibit heterosis (hybrid vigour) with embryos taking 3-4 weeks fewer to initiate when compared to their full sibling Sitka counterparts. This phenomenon can also be observed at every stage of development with hybrids consistently forming better plant structures more quickly.

How does Somatic embryogenesis work?

Other work we do

Although somatic embryogenesis of Sitka is the main focus of the lab we also carry out this process on larch, oak, ash, pine and sycamore.

As well as our SE facility, we also have an FC certified Seed Testing Facility for testing purity, viability and germination of seeds. In addition to this we are Associate Members of International Seed Testing Association (ISTA).