April 23, 2024

Pollen-Free Trees – Japan Looking to Fight Hay Fever News


In Japan, researchers are growing pollen-free rice. Because cedar is the most common tree and is responsible for 70 percent of pollen allergies in the country.

An environment with little or no pollen: Japanese researchers pursued this goal and specifically looked for trees with little or no pollen – and found what they were looking for.

“We identified the genes used in pollen production, and our staff found tree species in which the gene had already mutated naturally,” says Saniyoshi Ueno, Molecular Genetics Team Leader, National Research Center for Forests and Forests. This natural mutant can be used to breed a new strain without pollen. Therefore, our arboreal diversity does not produce pollen. »

The test shows trees free of pollen

In the wild, about 1 in 5,000 cedar trees do not produce pollen. Since the researchers were able to decipher the genome, a PCR test is enough to make sure in a few hours that the offspring of the tree will also not produce pollen. Researchers used to wait several years for a tree to become sexually mature when it was planted.


Saniyoshi Ueno and his colleagues looked for tree species that did not produce pollen.


“Theoretically, if we completely replaced the current rice variety with the new variety, the pollen content of Japanese rice would drop to zero,” says Ueno. However, this could take several hundred years.

Critics warn against meddling with nature

Critics of the project assert that planting pollen-free trees will affect the diversity of future generations and will be a major interference with nature. Ueno does not accept this argument. In each region, native seedlings will be used for propagation. Also, trees cannot reproduce. “We expect the next generation of Japanese cedar to have low or almost no risk.”

Forest owners shy away from using new varieties because the traditional variety has already produced good wood.

In commercial forests, four out of ten cedar trees. This leads to a high pollen load and more and more pollen allergies. So researchers want to grow pollen-free trees, especially in commercially used forests.

Japanese rice


Japanese cedar trees are popular in the forestry and logging industries. The tree grows upright and is therefore easy to handle.


But the forest owners are hesitant. “Foresters shy away from using new varieties because the traditional variety has already produced good wood.” With the new species, Ueno says, forest owners could not imagine what quality they would eventually achieve.

Pollen load mitigation as the goal

In five to 10 years, the researchers want to be able to provide more accurate results about wood quality, and so hope to gain more acceptance from forest owners. So far, it is assumed that there are no qualitative differences either in growth or in the wood itself. Even if the new variety did not produce any pollen, Japan would not become completely pollen-free as a result.

It is better to adapt to the sensitivity environment.

According to Ueno, there are many other allergens in Japan besides Japanese rice. Even if the Japanese cedar pollen is completely reduced, the allergy still exists. “Therefore, it is better to adapt to the sensitivity environment.”

However, according to the researchers, the new cedar is an important measure to mitigate pollen contamination. The analysis method used and pollen-free rice breeding can also be applied to other trees and plants. Similar research projects are already underway in Japan with cypress trees, which also cause many allergies.

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