Silver birch wood formation and biochemistry of birch bark are studied in our projects on woody raw material. Industrial use of wood will increasingly rely on high efficiency forest production systems using superior trees with defined fiber properties and other quality traits such as bark constituents, as well as enhanced growth rate. During the past years the fast developing new field of plant genomics has given us new tools to study tree growth and its regulation.

The aim of this project is to uncover key genetic determinants responsible for wood development in forest trees with the aim to use them to control both wood quality and growth in forest tree breeding. Transgene technology plays a crucial role in acquiring information of gene function, however the final aim is to use the gene level data to uncover the actual polymorphisms in natural populations that are responsible for traits important for applications.

This project has concentrated on two aspects in Silver birch. First, on the structural differences in lignin between the bark and xylem, and secondly, on the chemical components of the outer bark with a high amount of betulin, a compound which is of commercial interest with medical use. Outer bark -derived chemicals can also have other commercial uses.