Report on the 31st Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference (SFTIC)
The 31st Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference was held 14-2016 June 2011 in Biloxi, MS, USA. This marks 60 years of biennial technical conferences supported by the Southern Forest Tree Improvement Committee. The theme of the conference was tree improvement opportunities and challenges in the economy emerging around cellulosic biomass, bioproducts, and biofuels. Invited speakers from the industry, academia, and government challenged scientists and students to employ robust technologies for developing and deploying improved trees for the emerging biomass markets as well as for the existing forest products markets. Opportunities for integrating genomics into breeding and selection programs and somatic embryogenesis into deployment practices look promising for loblolly pine (Pinus taeda); the main industrial forest tree in the southeastern USA. Advances in enabling technologies such as DNA sequencing and genotyping open new opportunities for accelerating and achieving tree improvement in all forest tree species. Of the 109 attendees, 47 were first time conference participants and 27 were students, an encouraging sign for the future of forest genetics and tree improvement.