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Trees selected under the programme Selection and testing of conifers are grafted in nurseries prior to planting on site in clonal archives around the country, or in high facility polyhouses. Trees in archives are cross pollinated under controlled conditions to further the breeding programme and the production of selected planting stock.

The programme involves all work involving grafting, pollinations, clonal archive management, and storage of conifer seed and pollen. The programme also includes work into all aspects of clonal forestry which seeks to improve the rate and quality of improved material reaching the industry.

Research objective

  • To produce and maintain breeding populations of material in support of a programme of continuous selection and testing.
  • To conserve the breeding population and other genotypes considered necessary to retain a sufficiently large genetic base of each of the conifer species subjected to an improvement programme.
  • To make available to the forest industry basic material derived from production populations representing the latest products of the breeding programme.
  • To investigate phase-change and develop tissue culture techniques that will allow the successful development of clonal forestry.

Funders and partners

This research is funded by the Forestry Commission Tree Breeding for the Future programme and receives guidance from the Improving Conifer Timber Quality Steering Group.

European contracts have included:

  • FAIR CT 95-0909:
    Towards a sustainable productive Douglas-fir forest of high quality raw material in Europe (EUDIREC)

    This ended in April 2000. Progeny test data collected under this contract assisted in the development of the Douglas fir breeding programme.
  • FAIR 5-CT95-0873:
    Developing Somatic Embryogenesis as a tool for Spruce Tree Improvement

Forestry Commission policy

This programme remains one of the core elements of the ‘economic’ pillar contributing to sustainable forest management as describe in the UK Forestry Standard (2004). The objective of economic and efficient timber production, of which this programme is key, remains an important element of the Forestry Strategies of England, Scotland and Wales.

Reports and publications


This programme is continuous and has been running for a number of years.

Current activities:

  • Rationalising the collection of clonal archives
  • Finalising work into the efficacy of ‘Regulex’ to induce flowering in Sitka spruce grafts
  • Research into the use of cryopreservation and somatic embryogenesis to advance the aim of clonal forestry
  • Production of a choice of improved family mixture planting stocks according to forestry objectives
  • Mass-production of selected full-sib families to improve the uniformity of improved planting stocks.

What’s of interest


It’s a Family Affair:
‘Full-sib’ families are a new generation of improved Sitka spruce planting stock.

Article from Forestry & British Timber (Dec 2006) by Steve Lee, Forest Research Programme Group Manager for Genetic Improvement research programme.

It’s a Family Affair (PDF-398K)

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