Fifty years of breeding disease-resistant trees


On Aug. 25, 2016, we celebrated an important anniversary. Yes, that day was the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. But more importantly to me, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Dorena Genetic Resource Center.

The Dorena Center is located east of Cottage Grove, near the shores of Dorena Lake. Part of the Umpqua National Forest, it was established in 1966 to find strains of western white pine that were resistant to white pine blister rust, an invasive tree disease that kills pines. The center breeds disease-resistant trees and makes their seeds available to federal forest managers and private timber growers.

White pine blister rust is an introduced disease that has nearly wiped out five-needle pines, including eastern and western white pines, sugar pine and the iconic whitebark pine. Tree breeding at Dorena has had a huge impact in ensuring these pines continue to grow in Oregon’s forests.

The Aug. 25 event featured a number of talks from U.S. Forest Service leaders and their cooperators that highlighted the impact of the work at Dorena. I was fortunate to be among the nearly 100 folks in attendance on that hot August day. What impressed me most during the event were the young researchers and technicians who gave us tours of the various parts of the facility and shared their passion about the work they are doing.

While touring the center, I saw many examples of the important work being done there, including:

  • An unmanned aerial vehicle (aka drone) that is being used to take aerial infrared images of trees and look for a "disease signature" on them
  • Trials of eight species of five-needle pines that were being tested for resistance to white pine blister rust
  • Port-Orford-cedar trees being tested for resistance to root disease
  • Native understory plants being grown for restoration projects
  • An innovative fog chamber used to inoculate pine trees with spores from the leaves of gooseberry and currant bushes

The final impression that I walked away with that day is the Dorena Genetic Resource Center is not just vital for breeding timber trees that are disease-resistant. It is also important for finding resistant families of the iconic five-needle pines, such as whitebark pine, that play such an important role in our high-elevation western forests.

The event even included a talk on plantings of blister-rust-resistant whitebark pines at Crater Lake National Park, bringing together the two important anniversaries we are celebrating this year.

For more information about the Dorena Genetic Resource Center, visit their website.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

twitter youtube facebook linkedin

Related Websites