Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC)

, Volume 136, Issue 3, pp 415–430 | Cite as

The use of tissue culture and in-vitro approaches for the study of tree diseases

  • Trevor M. FenningEmail author


This article aims to review and discuss how to most effectively use tissue culture approaches as an aid to the study of tree diseases and pest syndromes. Firstly, the existing scientific literature is reviewed for how plant tissue culture techniques have been used to study various tree diseases in the past, with some reference to similar work that has been undertaken with other plants where relevant. In particular, the difficulties and limitations of trying to screen for resistant plants by exposing tree tissue cultures directly to disease causing organisms or extracts of them (mainly fungi, but also bacteria and even insects) is discussed at length. Examples are then provided for how even basic tissue culture procedures can greatly aid the study of tree disease processes, mainly by helping to organise and produce the plant material needed for such work according to need and at any time of year. This is especially important when working with trees, because they are much more difficult to study than short-lived crop plants, and the integration of tissue culture approaches into this work is an essential tool in this endeavour.


Trees Tree diseases Tissue culture In-vitro culture In-vitro screening 



Dutch elm disease


Ethyl methane sulphonate


Phytophthora ramorum


Somatic embryogenesis



We acknowledge the support of Gustavo Lopez of FR and the Defra grant TH0133 for the Living Ash Project. We also thank Sarah Green of FR; Jo Clark of the Future Trees Trust; and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, in Germany, for their comments about this manuscript and for the provision of photographs.

Author contributions

TMF prepared all of the drafts for this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there are no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The author declares that this work is fully compliant with ethical standards


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Copyright information

© Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest Research, Northern Research StationRoslin, Edinburgh, MidlothianUK
  2. 2.School of Environment, Science and Engineering at Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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