Research Branch

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Utilizing genetic resources of conifers in British Columbia

Author(s) or contact(s): D.T. Lester
Source: Research Branch
Subject: Tree Improvement and Genetics
Series: Research Report
Other details:  Published 1993. Hardcopy is available.


Genetic variation in the conifers of British Columbia is a legacy to be maintained and to be utilized. Genetic variation is being maintained through an extensive network of legally protected reserves and parks (a report on that network has been submitted to Ministry of Forests), and through frequent use of natural regeneration for harvested forests. Further maintenance is represented in the hundreds of thousands of trees in genetic test plantations.

Utilization of genetic variation for increased productivity and quality of wood, where tree planting is the chosen form of forest regeneration, is the focus of this report. Research on genetic variation and genetic improvement is in progress for 11 coniferous species. The oldest program has been in operation for over 30 years; the newest was initiated 5 years ago. Production goals for genetically improved seed, by species, range from more than 60 million to less than 2 million. Eighty-one seed orchards have been approved for establishment and most are currently in place.

This report describes the linkage between breeding and orchard development, and research results on provenance variation, inbreeding, and reproductive biology. The program for each species is reviewed in terms of elements that are common to all tree breeding programs. Expected timing of establishment, development, and full production is presented for each orchard, and average timing of major activities includes three generations of genetic improvement for each species.

Based on this review, seven recommendations are presented. They emphasize the need for clearer priorities in research on genetics and improvement of trees within the Ministry of Forests, the placement of tree improvement in a broader context of gene resource management, and the increased integration of activities to achieve genetic improvement of conifers in British Columbia.

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Updated November 04, 2008