The HealGenCAR Conference, with the theme: Clonal forestry and breeding for resistance to pests and pathogens, took place 12-14 June in Höör, Sweden. HealGenCAR is a virtual Centre of Advanced Research in Forest Health and Forest Genetics to enhance Bioeconomy, supported by SNS. HealGenCAR is a network that joins competencies from forest genetics, pathology and entomology, and its overall objective is to support development and implementation of good practices for use and management of forest genetic resources, as well as pest and disease management. 

The purpose of the conference was to provide examples of how clonal forestry and breeding can be applied in a sustainable manner and to explore aspects of combining clonal forestry with mixed-species forests. Invited keynote speakers included Prof. Björn Sundberg from Stora Enso, Sweden; Prof. Pär Ingvarsson, SLU, Sweden; Prof. Fikret Isik, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA and Dr Irene Barnes from FABI who presented a lecture entitled “Threat of Dothistroma septosporum to plantation forestry – with a South African perspective”. 

Other key topics included breeding for resistance to pests and pathogens, looking at the benefits and risks of clonal forestry, vegetative propagation of Norway spruce, cryopreservation methods, somatic embryogenesis and the potential practical applications of this technology, and the industries point of view on clonal forestry and forest health issues. Future prospects on gene mapping and genomic selection were also discussed.

The participants were treated to a day in the field with visits to Trolleholm Estate to look at the genetic variation to ash disease (caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) and short rotation forestry with poplars; the Skogforsk Research station to look at the clonal propagation of Scots pine for breeding, inoculations with Heterobasidion on Norway spruce and somatic embryogenesis in Norway spruce; and Phytophthora spp. affecting European beech (Fagus sylvatica) in Söderåsen National Park. The day was concluded with a special treat to see the home of Father Christmas in the caves at Tykarpsgrottan Ignaberga.