Interior lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) in British Columbia has, for the past decade been decimated by the largest recorded mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic with over 10 million hectares currently affected. By 2013 it is expected that 80% of the mature lodgepole pine trees in the province will be dead.
Salvage harvesting has greatly accelerated over the past 5 years with approximately 44% of the provincial AAC now lodgepole pine (61 % of the interior volume cut). Over 134 million pine seedlings were requested in 2006 representing one half of all seedlings for 2007 planting. 1.5% of lodgepole pine seedlings planted currently are of seed orchard origins, 9.5% are from tested superior-provenance seed collections and 89% from wild stand collections.
Over the past 6 years lodgepole pine seed orchard capacity has been greatly expanded with an intensive orchard parent selection program concentrating on 16-20 year-old first generation wind-pollinated progeny trials for 7 seed planning units (SPUs). A total of 35,000 ramets have been grafted and 8 new orchards planted by the Select Seed Company and various private cooperators. In 2006 we continued selection work in two southern interior SPUs, the Nelson low and high elevation units. A single-tree weighted index score for total tree height (age 10 yrs) was used to rank progeny test trees. The index is based on family mean height and deviations of individual trees within family, with adjustments made for replicate and site effects. Stem and crown form as well as disease and insect resistance traits were also integrated into the selection process. (Fig 1, Fig 2)
Selections were also made from the Central Plateau SPU test series for a western gall rust resistance seed orchard that was grafted in 2007/08. This is the first lodgepole pine disease resistance seed orchard in British Columbia, complementing other recent seed orchard expansions for the Prince George low and Thompson-Okanagan low and high SPUs.(Fig 3, Fig 4)
All five second generation SPU family test series are now planted and the first planted (Prince George) was measured this year after 5 field seasons. Each SPU family test series consists of sets of factorial crossings for volume growth and for wood relative density. (Fig 5, Fig 6)
Genetic variation for resistance to mountain pine beetle attack has been documented in a first generation progeny test series (wind-pollinated families) and in two lodgepole pine seed orchards at clonal, full-sib family, and provenance levels (Fig 7).
Enhancement of two existing western white pine (Pinus monticola) seed orchards continued with the selection of 26 parents from a 23 year-old blister rust resistance demonstration plantation and the continued selection of parents from our rust inoculation and screening program (Fig 8, Fig 9).
Climate change predictions suggest increasingly drier and warmer conditions for the southern interior of B.C. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) inhabits the driest parts of the southern interior now and numbers of seedlings planted have increased gradually to over 1 million in 2006. In 2002 73 seed-source ponderosa trial (2,400 trees) planted in 1992 was thinned, leaving the best trees based on total tree heights within the best seed sources (450 out of 2,400) to create a seed production stand/orchard. In 2005, based on 13 year stem volume data, an elite subset of 41 parents were re-selected from this population (41 out of 450). These trees were grafted in 2006 and were recently planted as a seed orchard. Final selection intensity is approximately 1 in 60 (41 out of 2,400) (Fig 10).
Heretofore paper birch (Betula papyrifera var. papyrifera) has received little commercial attention (firewood mostly), but like red alder on the B.C. coast this species is getting more attention annually with increased utilization for flooring, furniture, and small milled products. Experimentation with paper birch started with an 18 seed-source genecology trial in 1996, a 195 family open-pollinated trial in 1998 and a second genecology trial in 2001. All three trials were measured in 2006. The oldest trial data is being used to derive the first seed transfer guidelines for the species in British Columbia. The family trial at 9 years in the field will be the source of selected parents (approximately 20-40) for the first paper birch seed orchard(s) in British Columbia. Cuttings for grafting and rooting were collected from selected test trees in winter of 2006/07 and propagated in spring 2007. We are following the advice of the experienced Finnish birch breeding program staff in the development of indoor (greenhouse) seed orchards for paper birch. Extension work with European silver birch from Finland’s breeding program continues with private landowners (Fig 11, Fig 12, Fig 13, Fig 14, Fig 15, Fig 16).
Black cottonwood and its hybrids
Clonal testing of native black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera var. trichocarpa) and its hybrids (mostly with P. deltoides, eastern cottonwood) began in B.C. in 1989. The most recent testing effort involves 50+ hybrid clones of central B.C. interior origin black cottonwoods with northern origin eastern cottonwoods. Growth and adaptation comparisons with eastern shelterbelt Populus spp. clones will be made in this trial. This effort is an adjunct to the B.C. Black Cottonwood Genecology Program established by Dr. Chang-Yi Xie as part of the Coastal Tree Improvement Program. Growth and adaptation studies of a small number of hybrids continue in the Kootenay River valley near Creston. One clone in the 1997 plantings has produced approximately 350 m3 of stem wood per hectare (Fig 17, Fig 18).
Black walnut from eastern North America
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana has had a black walnut (Juglans nigra) selective breeding program for more than 35 years. In the late 1990s Purdue staff shared some of their best selected parent trees of wind-pollinated families with us for trial planting in the Okanagan Valley. Two apple orchard sites near Vernon were planted with small numbers of one year old container-grown seedlings starting in 1999. Most families tested have responded to central Okanagan conditions very well with excellent stem form and rapid height growth, and no disease or insect problems (Fig 19).