Breeding and production of conifers - Selected populations

Breeding and production populations now exist for:

  • Sitka spruce
  • Scots pine
  • Corsican pine.

Limited breeding populations exist for European and Japanese Larch with a view to producing Hybrid Larch. Selection based on progeny test results has yet to take place within Douglas Fir.

All selected trees are grafted onto seedling rootstock and stored in clonal archives. We have a number of these about Britain covering all the species for which we have a breeding programme. They are usually located close to Field Stations. This is where the controlled pollinations are carried out for further breeding work. The controlled crossing work requires us to have extensive stocks of seed and pollen retained in cold store at Northern Research Station.

Forest Research is merely responsible for the genetic testing of selected trees, estimating their breeding value, and maintenance of grafted copies in clonal archives. Although we are the exclusive owner of the original genetic material:

  • We do not own any seed orchards from which improved seed stock may be harvested
  • Any organisation, public or private, may buy the constituent clones required to make up a clonal seed orchard
  • We will provide the clones and give figures of the estimated gains
  • Component clones may be altered according to customer requirements.

Forest Research does however carry out controlled pollinations between parents in the production populations of Sitka spruce and the Larches for sale to customers as family mixtures which can be used in the production of rooted cuttings. Genetics gains from the latest family mixture can exceed those from seed orchards by 10 to 14 years.