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Successful tree improvement depends on the amount of heritable variation that exists within a species. The bulk of variation is exhibited at two levels – origin and within origin. This programme concerns the within origin variation of coniferous species and has been active since the late 1950s when work concentrated mainly on Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). Since then attention has switched to a small number of species of which Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) is the most important.
There are currently breeding programmes for five coniferous species:
In the past there has also been limited work on Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta).
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