Plant Protection: Identifying Disease Tolerant Specimens and Reintroducing Them-The Work of the Gosling Institute in Plant Preservation (GRIPP)


From the mid-1980s, the Foundation supported efforts led by the late Henry Koch at the Arboretum, University of Guelph, to identify and collect American elm specimens from across Ontario that had survived the onslaught of the Dutch elm disease.  Those specimens were propagated from cuttings and used in the testing for disease tolerance through a process that was dependent on the survival of trees following inoculation with fungal spores.

With her background in Plant Science, Foundation Director Susan Gosling, thought that techniques in plant cell culture might help if the disease and the plant response to it could be addressed at the cellular level.  Accordingly, she collaborated with Dr. Praveen Saxena at the University of Guelph who took on the challenge of being the first to clone meristems from a disease tolerant American elm.  From this initial meeting and the work that followed, the Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation evolved.

Researchers at GRIPP have developed techniques to:

  • Isolate growing shoot-tips, multiply them on aseptic culture medium in controlled environments, regenerate whole plants from this population, then transfer them to soil-based substrates and eventually to desired habitats
  • Evaluate germplasm for disease tolerance using biochemical and molecular markers and explore the nature of the tolerance that each specimen exhibits
  • Cryopreserve plant tissues for long-term conservation and regenerate large numbers from preserved specimens for restoration projects.

Gosling Foundation Support for Ecological Restoration through Plant Preservation

GRIPP is currently working with eleven plant species threatened due to habitat changes, natural scarcity or introduced diseases.

GRIPPs novel approach of CPR (Conservation, Propagation and Redistribution) which merges conservation strategies and modern biotechnologies provides a unique opportunity for initiating effective ecological restoration programs for endangered spices such as the American elm, American chestnut, and many others that are threatened by disease. The GRIPP team can collect tolerant specimens from any locale, multiply in large numbers for planting back in the wild.

A pilot project with Hill’s Thistle outlines some of the possibilities for ecological restoration the GRIPP technology offers.  Currently, CPR is being applied to help restore wild populations for several endangered species located in Canada including Hill's Thistle, an endangered plant in the Bruce Peninsula.

Recently, GRIPP has reintroduced Hill's Thistle plants preserved in GRIPP cryobank into 3 different locations in Tobermory park during the summer of 2018 through collaboration with Parks Canada. These plants survived well and flowered just like the natural population.



The Gosling Foundation will consider contributing to projects that apply GRIPP technology in addressing ecological restoration challenges.  Please contact the Foundation’s project coordinator to discuss possible applications.