The 31st Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference will be held June 13-16 at the Imperial Palace Resort and Spa at Biloxi, Miss.

The event, held every two years across the South, is sponsored by the Mississippi State University Department of Forestry College of Forest Resources and the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station’s Southern Institute of Forest Genetics.

The conference theme is “Unlocking Tree Genomes for the Sustainable Economy.”

“Today more than ever, tree improvement in the southern United States faces the challenge of increasing biomass quantity and quality of both pines and hardwoods for the emerging bioenergy/biofuel systems and the traditional forest products industries on a finite land base,” says Randy Rousseau, Mississippi State University Associate Extension/Research Professor.

“We are confident that this challenge can be met, but time is of the essence, and we must set a course for developing and implementing the knowledge that will combine current technology in genetics, genomics, and biotechnology with operational tree improvement programs to provide for a sustainable economy.”

While much of the conference will focus on technical subjects related to genetics and biotechnology, Rousseau says the June 14 session on “Biomass and Biofuels Production” will be of particular interest to landowners, timber producers, and the general public interested in gaining a better knowledge of how renewable biomass production fits into the production of bioenergy and biofuels.

“We hope that anyone who has an interest in the production of biofuels and bioenergy from biomass including the use of pine and hardwoods will join us for this first session June 14,” Rousseau says.

For those wishing to attend only the June 14 general session, a split registration is being offered, but signups should be done by April 15, if possible.

Discussion topics will include “Biofuels and Bioproducts Production,” “Opportunities and Challenges for Forest Trees in Emerging Biofuels and Bioproducts Industry,” and “Improving Forest Trees for a Sustainable Economy.”

Speakers who will participate include, Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant; Bill Goldner, USDA national program leader (sustainable bioenergy); Tim Rials, professor and director of the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon; Paul Spindler, vice president, Catchlight (Chevron & Weyerhaeuser); John Hacskaylo, vice president, KiOR, Inc.; Tim Eggeman, chief technology officer, ZeaChem, and Bill Glassner, vice president, Gevo, or Steve Flick, Show Me Energy.

Complete information about the conference and registration may be found at http://sftic.msstate.edu/index.html.