White pine endophytes: improving tolerance to white pine blister rust
White pine blister rust is a serious disease of pine, an ecologically and economically important forest species in Ontario and the Maritime Provinces. In western Canada, this pathogen has virtually eliminated pine as a commercial species and the disease now threatens eastern Canada. Endophytes are fungi that live in the leaves of various plants including conifers. In collaboration with the Miller lab, JD Irving, Limited has invested in the potential of spruce endophytes to increase tolerance to an insect pest, the spruce budworm. During production, seedlings can be inoculated with good endophytes which persist in the tree and provide the desired tolerance. Pine endophytes can make potently antifungal compounds that inhibit the growth of needle pathogens. Identifying strains that can be used to inoculate pine seedlings is a potentially important tool to limit the destruction of white pine. The intern will be involved in isolating and characterizing antifungal compounds and will learn how endophytes can be used in operational forestry in the Maritime Innovation Limited facility (a J.D. Irving, Limited subsidiary) in New Brunswick.