November’s guest speaker:
Dr. Lilian Matallana knows there are several factors that influence Americans to buy more artificial Christmas trees than real ones. “Consumers want a tree with an even triangular shape displaying a robust fullness,” she says, “but one of the main reasons they pass up a real tree is needle loss…they just don’t want to deal with the mess.”
As a postdoctoral research scholar in North Carolina State University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Dr. Matallana is searching for ways to solve that problem. Much of the time you’ll find her in a Biltmore Hall laboratory examining the genetic makeup of Fraser Firs, which represent more than 96 per cent of all Christmas trees produced in North Carolina.
By looking at trees from the inside out she hopes to conquer the needle retention issue and enhance other desirable characteristics. “What we’re doing,” she explains, “is shaping the future of Christmas by applying biotechnology and genomics.”
A native of Bogota, Colombia, Lilian Matallana’s road to NC State has been long and wide-ranging. She became interested in general science during elementary school classes but her fascination for plant studies emerged as an undergraduate biology student at the National University of Colombia.
To learn more about plant science, she traveled to Germany and the Technical University of Braunschweig. Later, as a PhD student, she studied at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam.
After her education in Germany, Lilian joined a forward-looking project at NC State headed by Dr. John Frampton and Dr. Ross Whetton who were working to improve the sustainability and profitability of the U.S. Christmas tree industry.
Dr. Matallana began reorganization of the Forestry Department’s molecular lab in 2013 and along with Drs. Frampton and Whetton converted it into the Molecular Tree Breeding Lab.
The work being done by Dr. Matallana is vitally important to North Carolina, which is second only to Oregon in Christmas tree production. In 2012, when the most recent agricultural census was done, the Tar Heel State produced 4.3 million trees--worth well over 100-million dollars.
If researchers like Dr. Matallana can find shortcuts to identifying high-quality trees, it translates into big dollars for the industry. It takes up to eight years to distinguish a marketable tree, which means eight years of costs and resources associated with cultivation.
As for her GWC presentation on November 21st, Dr. Matallana plans to start with a short explanation of basic biology and genomics terminology. “I’d like my audience to understand how scientists are searching for tools to identify elite Christmas trees,” she says. “Discovery of these genetic markers will significantly improve the quality of the final product that consumers buy, reduce the time farmers need to establish good-quality plantations, and build a pipeline to analyze Fraser Fir sequencing data to use in further molecular analysis."
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Visitors are always welcome at The Gardeners of Wake County meeting held every third Tuesday of the month at J.C. Raulston Arboretum. Refreshments are available at 7:00 PM so members and visitors can socialize before the 7:30 PM start of the meeting. Each meeting starts with a short business session followed by a horticulture related program. Plants are brought by members and given away as prizes. Click on "Programs" at the top of this page to see a list of the programs scheduled for 2017.
John Motley has been growing Basil, Garlic, and Asparagus for years.
Learn more about growing Basil, Garlic, and Asparagus or make your own applesauce and Pesto.
The Gardeners of Wake County meets every third Tuesday at 7:30 pm in the Ruby McSwain building at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum on Beryl Road in Raleigh. Refreshments are available at 7:00 PM and members and visitors can socialize at 7:00 pm before the start of the meeting. Each meeting starts with a short business session followed by a horticulture related program. Plants are brought by members and given away as prizes. Visitors are always welcome.
The J.C. Raulston Arboretum is located at 4415 Beryl Rd. which is on the South side of the railroad tracks and parallel with Hillsborough Street just east of the State Fair. Visitors are always welcome. Click here for map or directions.
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