Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

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Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Rob Kempinski on Fri Dec 17, 2010 8:37 pm

For years bonsai has been an art form limited to growing trees available in nature. Occasionally a tree produces a mutation and a new cultivar or variety emerges, but for that most part the process was happenstance and slow.

Genetic engineering offers an opportunity to throw bonsai rapidly into the 21st century.
Imagine a Japanese Black Pine tree infused with genes from a small leaved plant like a Nea buxifolia. The resultant tree could have super small needles all the time and really help create credible tree images on small scale. Take it one step further. Give the tree drought resistant genes, Roundup tolerant genes for weed control (BTW already done for potatoes) and cross it with the gene from a begonia that tolerates low light. You now have a super great looking indoor pine tree.

The imagination is the only real limit.

I am not a geneticist but have done some reading and thinking on the subject. For some background and a real quick read try this web page.
http://www.accessexcellence.org/RC/AB/BA/Transforming_Plants.php

It takes some knowledge of the plants' DNA, a transfer vector and the space to grow the resulting product. Shouldn't this be the real future of the art?



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Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Guest on Fri Dec 17, 2010 8:57 pm

Not for me, thankyou very much. Native trees are what I want and thats the way it'll stay. GM will never be valued and appreciated like the real thing.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Rob Kempinski on Fri Dec 17, 2010 9:21 pm

will baddeley wrote:Not for me, thankyou very much. Native trees are what I want and thats the way it'll stay. GM will never be valued and appreciated like the real thing.
Interesting point of view. Never is along time. In time it probably won't be known what was native and what was not and then again, what is native anyway?

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Guest on Fri Dec 17, 2010 9:41 pm

Why would it not be known what was native and what was not? I also think you know whats native or indigenous. I think there is enough problem with non native flora running riot through our native environments, without this man made menace as well.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Hans Vleugels on Fri Dec 17, 2010 9:59 pm

Hi Rob,

I think bonsai already has evolved in a kind of 'Frankenstein' way. It is now perfectly possible to add or replace branches at any place with the correct grafting techniques. Lots of possibilities with techniques which nowadays are available. I guess manipulating plants DNA could open many new doors with amazing results, but I think this will not be available for commercial use very soon. And we would also have to consider this can be a little dangerous too, if everybody would have this knowledge. Example: Jurassic park is a science fiction movie about manipulating DNA of prehistoric dinosaurs. I wouldn't be amazed it this would be possible in real life too with science going this fast. Cloning is also something based on DNA, the chain of all life. Could be helpfull to find cures for diseases like cancer etc., but I doubt if it ever will be used for bonsai purposes. Maybe after x years it will be possible, but wouldn't it take away all the fun of doing bonsai???

Regards,
Hans

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Rob Kempinski on Fri Dec 17, 2010 10:21 pm

Hans Vleugels wrote:Hi Rob,

I think bonsai already has evolved in a kind of 'Frankenstein' way. It is now perfectly possible to add or replace branches at any place with the correct grafting techniques. Lots of possibilities with techniques which nowadays are available. I guess manipulating plants DNA could open many new doors with amazing results, but I think this will not be available for commercial use very soon. And we would also have to consider this can be a little dangerous too, if everybody would have this knowledge. Example: Jurassic park is a science fiction movie about manipulating DNA of prehistoric dinosaurs. I wouldn't be amazed it this would be possible in real life too with science going this fast. Cloning is also something based on DNA, the chain of all life. Could be helpfull to find cures for diseases like cancer etc., but I doubt if it ever will be used for bonsai purposes. Maybe after x years it will be possible, but wouldn't it take away all the fun of doing bonsai???

Regards,
Hans

I agree that generic engineering is not without risk, but the risk can be managed. Just think of how the risk of surgery has progress over the years. To the point of heart transplants and etc. - unfathomable to a English guy like William Harvey in the 1500's.

As for taking away the fun, I don't know. We try leaf reduction techniques now - so we take it a step further and introduce DNA into the equation. People try already to propagate genetic sports and as you mention, grafting. DNA manipulation is another step.

I don't believe it is that far off into the future. Plants clone much simpler than animals and cloning is basically done when one layers or grows a cutting. Plant cell DNA can be readily altered by using transfer vectors which can be done in a garage with bacteria. What's to stop an enthusiast with some scientific know-how from trying? There is a large industry already out there looking at plant manipulation for a variety of reasons. Aesthetics can't be far behind.

Your reference to Jurassic Park is interesting. A more germane fiction book on the topic is "The Windup Girl"

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:26 pm

Rob,

but what about Zushio [ white pines] how much smaller do you want those needles?
I looked at Zushio as being almost not usable, just get a juniper is the next stage.

With time and looking, I find so many variations in the local trees, that I am at a loss to understand what more could one want.

About 7 months ago I came across a natural variation of the Murraya paniculata from seed, that was so amazing, I am hoping this is still not a waking dream. Leaflets slightly larger than the leaves of a small Fukien tea, and the shrub is healthy, branching and growing. If it continues to stay as it is, we will have a Murraya, that looks good and very dense at 12 inches [30 cm ] or so.
I will post an image tomorrow.

With time I know I will find a multi-branching, naturally American quarter sized leaf seagrape.

There is already a Begonia with very small maple type leaves, for growing indoors, Chilterns on-line used to sell seed years ago before they came on-line and you had to order by mail.

I would tend to use genetic anything on figuring out how to become immortal, than interfere with crops or mother nature.
Too many mouths to feed, keep it in your pants, be mature. Not mess with crops.
Good idea, wrong direction.
Khaimraj

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Ravi Kiran on Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:56 am

Thanks Rob for a very interesting thread. The possibilities as briefly mentioned by you are truly fantastic. Here is another case of pushing the boundaries of Bonsai as we know it today. I really wish, hope and pray that Genetic Engg takes off. Its a boon for bonsaists. Considering the benefits that one could possibly get, the few downsides could either be managed at best or overlooked at worst.

I also understand some of the reactions against the idea on this thread so far. Understandable and to be expected as with any innovation. Time is a healer and would answer many of the fears (mostly theoretical with rare exceptions) and then one can sit back and keep grinning ear to ear as we look at our sparkling gems of genetically engineered Bonsai trees. A few examples IMHO already exist. Most of the variegated varieties are indeed examples of Genetically Engineered species. Here in India I have see species like , Ficus, Jade (Portulacaria Afra), Casuarina, False Cypress to mention my top of the mind recall as variegated species.

Having said this I also understand that such a possibility(with all the benefits you have mentioned) might not be overnight (wish it was though) and might take a while. But with such positive takeaways, the wait is certainly worth it.

If in your knowledge you have found someone who is at it ... I'd be too glad to share my address for shipping... Very Happy

Regards
Ravi

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Guest on Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:10 am

Sorry Ravi but what your talking about is not genetic engineering, but cross polination. This can happen naturally or be induced by man. Nothing to do with what Rob is advocating. We have absolutely no idea of the long term effects of messing with nature in this way and I for one will stick to grafting if I feel the need for different characteristics.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  63pmp on Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:27 am

Genetic engineering is possibly the dumbest uncontrolled experiment humankind has ever conducted on the earth (that and human induced climate change). Approved genetically modified agricultural crops have already proven that the genetic change cannot be controlled. Genitically modified canola has already become a weed here in Australia, and since it's resistant to herbicides, it's proving to be difficult to remove. The genetic modification has been shown to jump species as well. The implications of future "infections" of these mutations is impossible to determine or ascertain. And once it's out there it cannot be recalled.

We should recognize that nature messes about with genetic change all the time, but that it takes years for similar magnitude of mutation to occur, in the order of thousands of years, not in the order of days. The environment has time to adjust to these evolutionary changes. Additionally, natural genetic change is generally within species, not trans-species as we get with genetic engineering, like BT cotton for instance.

I'm not a fan of GM anything. The earth has provided us with plenty of quality species, I can't see the need for "improving " on what nature has given us.

Paul

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Guest on Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:34 am

Well said Paul. This has to be one of the scariest threads to date.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Ravi Kiran on Sat Dec 18, 2010 8:25 am

affraid scratch Now this has got me thinking.........

After reading what Hans, Will and Paul are saying, I seem understand the complexities of the matter. Having dwelt on the subject and some initial insights later, I feel that in today's world, whether we like it or not Genetic Engg is part of our lives and usually for the better. Sure it has its downsides like the ones that Paul has mentioned. IMHO those are the result of rushing into things without appropriate research into the matter. It is another matter as to who decides how much is necessary. I am sure that there are Government agencies which do the job to make the world a safer place. Once sufficient time has been invested into the matter and the downsides ruled out (like it has been done in many cases) the benefits can be safely applied. At times the opposition to Genetic Engg appears similar to what Alfred Nobel had to endure when he invented dynamite in the 1860's. Time has moulded what was called a curse into a beneficial tool even though some instances of misuse continue till date.

Then there are the ethical (which sometimes extend into religious) issues, like can we meddle with God's creation. There are views on this which span both extremes and I wouldn't take a stand on this one and rather leave it open ended.

Would like to conclude by saying that once sufficient care, time and research has gone into a particular application of Genetic Engg, in our case in Horticulture, we can sit back and enjoy the benefits of this advancement in technology.

Rob I hope that day comes sooner than later.

Ravi

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Tom Benda on Sat Dec 18, 2010 8:42 am

I think that time is coming, sooner or a bit later. There will be more and more info on the net. And lots of "garage labaratories" will grow. Do You want to take controll of internet as it is in China? Maybe soon we have a "good pretence" for such a controll, too.
Then I see this theme is so wide. When I speak just about bonsai-GM-material, why not? A small needle indoor pine, hmmm :-) If it spreads somewhere in nature and doesn´t die out, it will die out sonn by collectors :-D
My friend, scientist, works very close, or partially on to GM.
On the other side, my local species are funny enough.
Regards, Rob!

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Kev Bailey on Sat Dec 18, 2010 9:29 am

I'm with Will on this. Natural mutation and selective breeding of new plants is fine by me and has worked in nature for millennia, but GM needs to be so very carefully controlled. Juts one badly thought out plant could spell disaster.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:38 am

Just to play the fly in the ointment -

someone comes up with a zelkova, that retains all the density of branch, smallness of leaf and trunk abilities, and grows under a 10 watt LED, requires no winter rest, but automatically rests as required, able to grow worldwide. Ditto a pine.

How many purchase, excuse it as not a food, so the genetic manipulation is okay, and everyone displays ?

zuisho - http://bonsai.shikoku-np.co.jp/en/shugi/2010/03/goyomatsu-japanese-white-pinecultivate-nasu-goyo-popular-for-its-good-looking-in-europe-and-the-unit.html

There are many cultivars, of decidious, coniferous and evergreen that most have no knowledge of. The tropical world is only just starting down this road.

By the way aren't those "white" or other leaf variations of ficus, viral infections ?
Khaimraj

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Guest on Sat Dec 18, 2010 11:45 am

A lot of the enjoyment I get from my trees, and particularly deciduous trees, is the fact that they have taken so long to develop. Those initially wired primary branches that I had the forethought to place where I did all those years ago, now have secondary and tertiary branches and are developing into what I now consider to be a beautiful trees. .The GM thing in my opinion goes against the very ethos of bonsai and my love of trees and nature.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 12:06 pm

As promised - a small of leaflet Murraya paniculata.

http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t5049-murraya-paniculata-subspecies-bonsai#51033

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  JimLewis on Sat Dec 18, 2010 1:40 pm

My working life was spent in the environmental field. I am all too familiar with the claims of so-called leading edge scientists that their experiments would be so carefully controlled that nothing would ever escape into the environment.

Tell that to the folks who are struggling against the (allegedly sterile) Asian carp in the Mississippi River watershed. Tell that to midwestern corn farmers where pollen from genetically engineered corn has drifted to contaminate their corn.

Tell that to countless people all over the world where "guaranteed safe" waste discharges have escaped -- Bhopal comes to mind, but mine waste dam breaks are even common, and radioactive leaks are not uncommon around "contained" nuclear reactors. The list of "safe" experiements and practices that turned out to be NOT safe is almost endless. DDT was "safe."

Here a news article that should scare the pants off proponents of genetic engineering:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28390773/ns/technology_and_science-innovation/

Sorry, Rob, but I think that is the worst idea ever to arise for bonsai (not that I think that diddling with genes will cause one of our trees to jump out of its pot and chase us with a club).

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genetically enginered trees

Post  RobertH on Sat Dec 18, 2010 1:54 pm

this ones interesting but a bit spooky Shocked how does the song go,,whats that coming over the hill is it a monster. bob

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 2:00 pm

Yessum Jim,

that is what I figured would follow, hench my sad attempt to educate using examples of what was already there and how careful looking would yield positive results for variations useful in Bonsai.

Perhaps now, more will take to looking for seeds and seedlings with unusual, but not able to easily survive in the wild, qualities, which is why they seldom show as grown trees or shrubs.

I once had a 3 to 4 inch [ 7.5 to 10 cm ] Seagrape that had 17 branches and branchlets forming, with American quarter sized leaves, after one yearly defoliation. Great hopes for a larger bonsai that looked more like a miniaturised by raygun mature seagrape tree. It mysteriously disappeared.
I keep looking for another. I will find another, too many hidden stands of old seagrape trees around the island.

Let's hope we don't get killed of by some self taught inventor of a genetic bomb.
Khaimraj

* For what it is worth I have an active subscription to, New Scientist.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 2:13 pm

Jim,

off topic completely and I shall be very brief,

Universities are for ideas, for jobs in research. Scientists do research.

Most folk graduate as Technicians, as they never do research.
The Internet makes it easy to achieve Technician status as the done / published research can be purchased for a small fee on-line. I have done this with ultra low, but very stable glazes for pottery.

There are folk down here trying to get the science titles changed to reflect the above, Technician of x, or y or z.
Khaimraj

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  fiona on Sat Dec 18, 2010 3:08 pm

Pot.

Kettle.

Black.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  dorothy7774 on Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:28 pm

You want to make a case against perfection? What happens when one finds an extra small leaved specimen with extra short internodes? Don’t we all try to reproduce and hold on to this specimen via cuttings, air layering etc.?
Genetic engineering seems more intrusive, more sinister than other ways of enhancing tree quality (grafting, fusing, adding jins, creating shari etc.). Truth is, from a moral point of view the difference is less significant than it seems. There are folks who do not consider a cultivated tree a true bonsai. If it is not a yamadori, it is no true bonsai, so to speak. There are folks who do consider wiring a major manipulation of the tree, they will clip and grow the material and achieve amazing results. If you think about it, the result accomplished by wiring a tree will not occur in nature. Most bonsaiists will not accuse you of trespassing nature when applying wire to a tree. Genetic engineering, although a step further than enhancing, is a manipulation of an organism's or a plant’s genetic material in a way that does not occur under natural conditions.
It is the individual bonsai grower or bonsai artist who decides how far to ethically carry bonsai design and bonsai enhancement. Genetic engineering on trees as Rob has suggested is scientifically speaking a wonderful way of experimenting. However, genetic engineering usually focuses on problem solving and functionality, on health and environment. In how far genetic engineering on trees would hypothetically support the concept of environmental health or progress is questionable. Genetic engineering will destroy individualism and become more of a fashion. Trespassing nature will always ask for a price to be paid. If genetic engineering on bonsai means to define the boundaries of perfection (more pests, other pests, slower growth, and faster growth) one will still have to keep up the research long time after the tree has been genetically enhanced. Maybe a bit too much involvement that does not necessarily rectify the modification.
And besides, if we just wait long enough, climate changes will eventually alternate growth patterns and speed up the capability of trees to adjust to conditions (hopefully). If we genetically enhance our trees right now, we might be one state too late..speaking Floridian here;)

-dorothy

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:40 pm

Dorothy,

the way it was handed to me wiring was for slower growing or coniferous type trees and clip and grow for faster growing trees or trees that didn't handle wiring well.
To be frank, I never pushed the idea any further than the above.

As to the various add on's, phoenix graft and all that, it seemed to be so much trouble to go through.

Would Bonsai trees reach such a world commercial state to be worth $$ genetically tampering with ?

Lastly, Bonsai is a hobby, you can do anything you want to do, only when you invite opinions does it change [ and even then if you don't want to listen, folk will figure it out and leave you alone, so you are back to step one,] or when you start to sell.

So who cares if it is a real Bonsai ?
Khaimraj


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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

Post  Guest on Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:15 am

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Dorothy,

the way it was handed to me wiring was for slower growing or coniferous type trees and clip and grow for faster growing trees or trees that didn't handle wiring well.
To be frank, I never pushed the idea any further than the above.

As to the various add on's, phoenix graft and all that, it seemed to be so much trouble to go through.

Would Bonsai trees reach such a world commercial state to be worth $$ genetically tampering with ?

Lastly, Bonsai is a hobby, you can do anything you want to do, only when you invite opinions does it change [ and even then if you don't want to listen, folk will figure it out and leave you alone, so you are back to step one,] or when you start to sell.

So who cares if it is a real Bonsai ?
Khaimraj


Bollocks!!! We have to take responsibility for what we create and therefore can't do anything we want to if it impacts on others. And on the evidence with GM, it already does.

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Re: Genetically Engineering Bonsai Trees

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