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Tree improvement research and services


Tree improvement research aims to increase the genetic quality of planting stock so that improvements in important characteristics can be made. The approach is based on:

  • Selection - choosing potential parent trees which exhibit the qualities we are looking for
  • Testing - conducting field evaluation trials to establish whether observed parental quality is truly genetic
  • Production - using a range of techniques to make available to the industry quantities of planting stock which are derived from proven parent trees.

We also participate in smaller programmes involving broadleaved species and are also involved in:

  • Investigating natural variation between populations of a species drawn from throughout its natural range
  • Study of seedling maturation and the physiology and techniques of tissue culture as a means of securing predictable supplies of improved material using clonal propagation techniques
  • Investigation of both neutral and adaptive variation in populations of native tree species
  • Development of molecular markers as an aid to selection for important commercial traits
  • The study of techniques which will enhance the predictablility and abundance of flowering in conifers
  • Statutory work relating to the marketing of forest reproductive material.

The above include elements of a traditional tree breeding programme and we perform this type of research on the most important coniferous species in use in the UK.

Research programmes

Tree improvement research contributes to programmes within:

Individual programmes include:

Species covered

Major effort is concentrated on the breeding of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.). In this species, breeding work will continue into advanced generations and techniques of marker aided selection and the propagation of individual clones through tissue culture techniques are also being studied.

First generation breeding work has been completed for:

  • Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.)
  • Corsican pine (Pinus nigra var. maritima (Aiton) Melville)
  • Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Douglas)

and is continuing in:

  • Douglas fir (Pseudostuga menziesii (Mirb) Franco)
  • Hybrid larch (Larix x eurolepis Henry).

Investigations in broadleaved species include:

  • Sessile and pedunculate oak (Quercus petraea (Matt.) Lieblein and Q. robur L.)
  • Ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.)
  • Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus L.)
  • Birch (Betula spp.)


IconRelated publications


For further information contact:

Dr Steve Lee
Centre for Forest Resources and Management
Forest Research
Northern Research Station
Midlothian EH25 9SY
Tel: 0131 445 2176
Fax: 0131 445 5124


What's of interest

Tree improvement research has a long history within Forest Research, going back to 1948 when the Genetics Branch was formed.

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