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Our Mission

The research mission of the UT Tree Improvement Program is captured in the Latin phrase “Fideliter et Melius Facere et Conservare et Silvas”, which means to faithfully improve and protect the forest. The Program’s research is directed toward improving the production and quality in various forest tree species planted by Tennessee landowners, while protecting the genetic resources of tree species at risk from exotic pests. Improvement is accomplished through breeding and genetic testing in combination with nursery and field management activities. Tennessee landowners have a myriad of values associated with forested land, ranging from the presence of songbirds to timber production. Correspondingly, the selection of species for improvement is holistic in nature, as opposed to exclusively for wood paper production.

Exotic, or non-native, forest pests have had a significant impact on Tennessee forests. For example, the mighty American chestnut has been reduced to short-lived stump sprouts by an exotic fungal disease. Many other forest tree species in Tennessee are under attack from exotic insects or pathogens. The Program strives to protect these endangered species by collecting seeds from surviving trees and preserving the genetic diversity in protected plantations or through genetic resistance breeding to develop genotypes that can withstand the particular exotic challenge.