Sitka spruce Breeding Co-operative (SSBC)

Sitka conesThis project aims to promote the planting of the best quality Sitka planting stock and take forward the Sitka spruce breeding programme.

Research objectives

  • To secure the supply of control pollinated full-sibling seed for use by the vegetatively propagated (VP) Sitka spruce cuttings industry
  • To encourage the planting of best quality Sitka spruce clonal seed orchards ensuring panmixes (equal contribution of component clones) at harvest so retaining wide genetic diversity 
  • To continue the Sitka spruce breeding programme, increasing further the genetic gains for vigour but particularly stem and wood quality traits
  • To demonstrate the value, and promote the planting of improved Sitka spruce stock within the forestry sector
  • To embrace new technologies (tissue culture, DNA-sequencing) as appropriate which help meet objectives in a faster, more cost-effective manner.

Results so far

  • Formed in early 2014, the SSBC is already producing seed for sale to the VP industry.
  • New clonal archives are in preparation replacing the aged and over-grown existing clonal archives where controlled pollination has historically proved very costly.
  • Plans are in place to monitor the contribution of components clones in seed orchards to ensure relative equal contributions (panmixes).
  • Acoustic Velocity data are being collected from existing full-sibling field trials which will add to our knowledge of timber stiffness to be incorporated into plans for future controlled pollinations


  • The SSBC has grown out of the Sitka spruce breeding programme which was started in the late 1960s
  • Members consist of Forest Research and other interested industrial partners in tree nurseries and forest management
  • Newly calculated genetic gains are published on the SSBC website.

Members of SSBCRelated Products/Services

  • The main output of this co-operative venture between Forest Research and private industry is high-quality improved planting stock in the form of seedlings from the latest seed orchards or rooted cuttings of full-sibling families following controlled pollination and multiplication using vegetative propagation.
  • There is an annual pollination programme to generate new seed for sale to industry
  • There is an annual field-trial assessment programme to improve Breeding Value data for traits related to quality or growth rate.


Steve Lee

Funders and partners

  • Funding is an equal partnership between Forest Research and SSBC members from across the private forestry industry.

Forestry Commission policy

Ensuring well adapted, good quality planting stock with the best economic return is a key component of sustainable forestry as promoted in the forest policy documents for Scotland, England and Wales. 

Useful sites