16 Feb 2015

Serious Design Fault Discovered In Tree Plantations

Plant geneticists from CSIRO, ANU, Flinders University and UTAS did not realised that from 2000 onwards they have been creating 'Synthetic Clonal Colonies'. They spent decades developing 'elite' trees with increased gain and enhanced 'traits'. The push to create the highest performing trees may have blinded the scientists to the use of contradictory technology. After cloning the best performing trees, they forgot that mycorrhizal root fungi would connect all of the closely planted trees into 'clonal colonies'. The trees are then controlled by algorithms rather than inherited traits. The new clonal colony enforces uniformity and the 'realised gains are lower than predicted'. An entire plantation now behaves as a single living unit.
Plantation e.nitens and e.globulus (bluegum) trees grown in Tasmania are highly developed 'synthetic' trees. They are manufactured using 'one stop mass pollination' or 'mass controlled pollination' as the first stage of a clonal tree assembly line.
Plant geneticists program the 'traits' they want using genetic mapping software. The trees could then be modified to produce 'polyploidy' (multiple genomes per cell). Somehow this process flies under the GMO radar in Australia. Clonal trees are then synthesized using 'chloroplast genetic engineering via organogenesis'.  These are not normal trees grown from seed. They are grown from 'somatic embryos'.
What are 'somatic embryos'? They are formed directly from plant cells in a test tube in a process that bypasses the slow growth of seed pods and natural tree reproduction. This technology lends itself to the propagation of mass clonal tree plantation products sold by 'clonal nurseries'.  Welcome to the 'test tube trees' of Tasmania.
Who knew? Clonal eucalyptus plantations are not grown from seed. They are grown directly from lab-cultivated 'plant embryos' in vitro. This phase of production is also known as 'synthetic seed technology' or 'micropropagation'.

Here we will use eucalyptus nitens plantation trees as an example. Trees within a plantation cannot fertilise other trees in the same plantation because they are genetically identical and do not produce viable seed (selfing). They may 'outcross' or 'open pollinate' with other trees but only if the synthetic trees are not also 'male pollen sterile'. Even if some seeds were found and germinated they would probably revert back to a basic e.nitens that can be germinated from seeds found in Victorian native forests. Observations on the ground suggest the clonal trees are 'terminator trees' and a plantation owner is unable to germinate the seeds he has grown. He must return to the 'clonal seed orchard' and buy his next rotation. The trees are the intellectual property of the CSIRO and others and it is probably illegal to germinate them even if you could.
Image from Bandyopadhyay and Hamill. Structure of e.nitens somatic embryos

A cluster of genetically identical organisms is called a 'clonal colony'.
The trees in most Tasmanian eucalypt plantations after 2000 are genetically identical and will form a 'clonal colony'. A 'synthetic clonal colony' to be exact. A whole colony is termed a 'genet' while each clonal tree is a 'ramet'. Fungi, bacteria and cancer are all 'clonal colonies'. Did you know Tasmania has naturally-occurring clonal colonies of trees? The 'Lomatia Tasmanica' is a sterile clonal colony that is at least 45,000 years old. An aspen clonal colony in Utah is the worlds largest organism by mass covering 43 hectares with 47,000 ramets. It's root system is estimated to be 80,000 years old. There are also insect clonal colonies such as clonal raider ants. Clonal colonies are the closest thing to 'immortality' on Earth.

Clonal colonies (CC) have unusual properties that have been analyzed using high-level algorithms. For example, a plant CC needs to survive and expand. That means individual ramets collaborate. By contrast, a synthetic forestry CC is designed to have a limited life and not to expand. The trees are engineered to compete, not collaborate. This is the major fault of clonal tree plantations because observation has confirmed the trees are behaving collaboratively as the CC algorithm predicts. The CC plantations appear 'programmed' with an 'internal error'.
10,000 year old Huon Pine clonal colony after a bushfire. Mr Reid Tasmania from Rachel Sussman
Here I introduce the 'clonal tree plantation is a super-organism theory'. The theory reveals the serious flaws in clonal plantations and raises some interesting questions.
If a nitens clonal plantation was left for a period of time, would individual tree roots and their symbiotic mycorrhizal colonies merge to become the single genet that biologically they already are? Do plant pheromones also achieve this outcome? What is the relationship between 2 different clonal plantations? What is the relationship between clonal colony (CC) plantations and native forest? Can CC plantations induce toxicity or even sterility in other organisms? Can koala bears become addicted to CC eucalyptus leaves?

Crucially, why are clonal plantations such poor performers? Clonal tree ramets only have to compete with mirrors of themselves and not with other tree species. With ever increasing amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, CC plantations should be powering up. Instead, they appear crippled by a design fault. The theory predicts the powerful force compelling uniformity within a clonal colony(1) is averaging out the growth of all the trees in order to allocate resources equally to the entire colony. (1.full text)

If the theory is correct then plant geneticists have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars by failing to apply CC algorithms to clonal plantations. It could even mean the original idea of developing clonal plantations was faulty. After all, doesn't a 'mixed clonal forest' defeat the idea of cloning trees to begin with?

CC research also predicts clonal plantations would be hostile to trees from other clonal plantations, as well as native trees, to prevent sharing resources with them. This effect decreases over time.

Disturbingly, the CC algorithm predicts synthetic genets have developed novel biological and allelopathic (biochemical) properties. Because the trees are genetically identical, individual tree immune systems are subverted in favour of a collective or cooperative immune system. That means the chemical properties of clonal trees must have changed in some way to reflect the new biochemistry of the whole genet. This has never been studied before.

'Our economic system is now the main evolutionary driver of the biosphere'. Millions of taxpayers dollars have been spent developing 'elite' trees but these trees have sent thousands of Australians bankrupt. Why are CC forests failing financially? Why have intelligent scientists not publicly disclosed they are imposing a transitory economic system onto plant species that evolved over millennium? Species that the scientists are biologically related to themselves (fairly recently in geological terms). Why have plant scientists become so obsessed with the reproductive systems of trees? Why is the CSIRO and others acting as 'parents' for thousands of synthetic clonal colonies? How far will plant scientists develop synthetic forestry for non-biological reasons if the technology is still in it's infancy?


It's well known plants perceive light. Plants know if it's light or dark, in fact plants and humans share identical genes to detect light. In humans these genes control the timing of cell division, the axonal growth of neurons, and the proper functioning of the immune system. That's an important piece of DNA we inherited from plants.
Plants don't have a sense of smell like us but they are masters of producing and detecting chemical signals. When fruit begins to ripen, it releases the hormone ethylene which is sensed by neighbouring fruit causing the other fruit to also ripen.
The picture above shows roots of Zea mays bending towards a continuous sound source coming from the left. Plants may not 'hear' but they do recognise sound waves.
There is intriguing research that indicates plants also have 'memory' including 'intergenerational memory' and 'short term memory'. “For example a Venus Fly Trap needs to have two of the hairs on its leaves touched by a bug in order to shut, so it remembers that the first one has been touched. But this only lasts about 20 seconds, and then it forgets”.(2)
Many scientists assume they have a right to genetically alter plants. Those scientists are in effect, claiming evolution failed to perfect plants and all other organisms. Haven't those scientists forgotten that evolution also created them? Therefore, their evolution must also be faulty. Why are the rest of us allowing 'faulty' science to alter our biosphere? In their profound ignorance, some scientists assume human economics is the only thing evolution did perfect. It's a pity observation fails to support that ridiculous idea.

(2) From 'Do Plants Think' by Daniel Chamovitz Here

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