Huge DNA code of the Christmas tree being revealed

Scientists are working to decipher the DNA code of conifers, like the Norway spruce at Rockefeller Center in New York. Scientific teams in the United States and Canada recently released preliminary descriptions of conifer genomes and a Swedish team plans to follow suit soon in its quest for the Norway spruce.

NEW YORK — Scientists say they're making progress on a huge project: mapping the DNA of the Christmas tree.

We're talking about the conifer, which is the umbrella term for trees like the spruce, fir, pine, cypress and cedar. Scientists want to identify the billions of DNA building blocks in the conifer genetic code. That should help in breeding and forest management.

Cracking that genetic code is a challenge because it's so huge — six times bigger than the code for humans. But teams in the United States and Canada recently reported preliminary results for the loblolly pine and the white spruce. A Swedish team plans to follow suit early next year for the Norway spruce.

David Neale of the University of California at Davis says conifer genetics is "entering the modern era."