NC State
Fikret Isik

Current Research Projects

Towards Genomic Selection in Forest Trees
(2015-2019, USDA-NIFA Award #: 2016-67013-24469):
My current research focuses on discovery and validation of informative SNP markers from publicly available DNA sequence data of loblolly pine. Genomic resources (validated SNP markers) will be organized into the TreeGenes database for community access. Leveraging the TreeGenes database, a PineSNPchip consortium will be established to bring the forest genetics community together to design SNP arrays. The predicted ability of markers for growth and disease resistance will be studied in populations of loblolly and sugar pine. We expect the research results will have a broader impact. The pine genome is large (~23.2Gb) and complex, and methods developed in this project could be extended to crops and horticultural species with complex genomes.

Principal investigators: Lead PI: Fikret Isik (NCSU), Jill Wegryzn (University of Connected), Andrew Eckert (Virginia Commonwealth University), Richard Sniezko (Forest Service, Dorena Genetic Resource Center), Juan Acosta (CAMCORE, NC State University).

Genomic Selection in Forest Trees:  Beyond Proof of Concept
(2019-2024, USDA-NIFA Award #: 2019-67013-29169).
With traditional pine breeding, selection of superior pine varieties for plantations require field trials. This process can take more than six years. We aim to use large number of DNA markers to make the selection of superior pine varieties when they are tiny seedlings, without establishing expensive and time-consuming field trials. We also aim to discover DNA markers to screen seedlings for major genes conferring to fusiform rust disease in pine. We will organize two workshops to train professionals and students to implement these methods in pine breeding. The project results are expected to fundamentally change traditionally pine breeding. In the long run it will help landowners to plant superior pine varieties on their land to increase productivity to meet the increasing demand for fibre, biomass for energy and wood.
Project director: Fikret Isik (NCSU), Senior personnel: Eddie Lauer. 

Genetic Improvement of Pine for Fusiform Rust Disease Resistance (Supported by Forest Industry): A major threat to pine plantations in the southern USA. Research on fusiform rust disease includes new disease resistant gene discovery in elite pine clones, utilization of resistance genes in pine breeding programs and study of host pine genotypes by pathogen interactions.