The pines of the Pinus sub-genus Strobus are hosts to a fungal pathogen, Cronartium ribicola, which causes white pine blister rust. The pathogen was introduced into North America in the early 1900's through a shipment of eastern white pines from Europe. Innate resistance has been found in natural populations. Progeny screening has shown that one form of resistance is conferred by a major dominant gene (Kinloch 1970), while incomplete resistance or partial resistance has also been observed.
Although resistance to white pine blister rust (WPBR) has been the fulcrum of most research conducted on the white pines thus far, the urgency to address the adaptation of pines to pathogens and insects in changing climate regimens has become paramount in recent years. The changing climate will impose acute selective pressure on pines and respective ecological communities that have adapted to localized climates and life cycle synchronization. Adaptation to water stress, rising temperatures, shorter winters, longer summers, and shifts in insect and pathogen life cycles have become imperative arenas of research. It is difficult to predict how severely the changing climate will affect distributions of these long-lived organisms.
In North America, a collaborative effort among researchers has begun, starting with a multi-national White Pine Genomic Resource Workshop held on October 22-23, 2008 at the Dorena Genetic Resource Station in Cottage Grove, OR. The objective of this workshop was to discover and identify research objectives, strengths, scope and resources among the various working agencies and create a white paper. This collaborative effort is designed as a foundation to build wider scientific participation with a scope that spans molecular models to landscape models, from host to pathogens and alternative hosts.