FOREST GENETICS AND TREE IMPROVEMENT
genetics is the study of hereditary variation in trees. Like
all living organisms genes control the traits that trees
exhibit. Pines, oaks, maples, etc. have unique compliments
of genes that define the species. The individual tree that
grows in the forest is a product of its genes and the
environment in which it lives. Just as genetics can be used
to improve the milk production of dairy cattle, the hunting
ability of dogs or the grain production of a corn variety,
genetics can be used to improve the characteristics of
improvement is the application of forest genetics to field
practice. Tree improvement work is accomplished by testing
wild tree selections and determining which will grow best
when planted on certain sites or in specific geographic
improvement is a long-term endeavor because trees are
long-lived organisms and breeding programs rely on seed
production that often comes in later stages of tree life.
Various techniques have been developed, however, to cause
some tree species to produce seed earlier. These include
grafting and cultural practices like root
landowners in the southern U.S. have heard and use the
expression "Super Pine" for pine seedlings that have been
produced by a tree improvement program. These trees are
seedlings grown from seed produced by parent trees that have
been selected for superior form, growth rate, and other
characteristics. These "superior seedlings" may be from
forest industry or state agency tree programs. "Improved
seedlings" have become much more available in the last
decade and these seedlings are being widely planted because
they grow on average 10% faster (or more) than "woods run"
(average wild stock) seedlings.
improvement programs and forest genetics research have been
conducted throughout the world since about the 1950s.
Generally, tree improvement programs for the conifer species
were begun earlier because of their economic value and the
fact they are more frequently planted. Scots pine, Norway
spruce, Loblolly pine, European Larch, Eastern White pine,
White spruce, Red spruce, and Douglas-fir are good examples.
Tree improvement projects with broadleaf tree species have
also been underway for at least 20 years. Some of the
"hardwood" tree species in tree improvement programs around
the world include black walnut, sugar maple, birches (black,
yellow and paper), European black alder, white ash, poplars,
willows, northern red oak, and eucalyptus.
most widely available improved tree seedlings to Mississippi
landowners are "improved" pine, principally Loblolly pine.
These trees can be purchased from the Mississippi
or forest industry nurseries such as Weyerhaeuser or
International Paper Co. Landowners purchasing seedlings
should be sure to match the seed source of the seedlings
with the planting locality.
more information on forest genetics and tree improvement
check the following references:
Introduction to Forest Genetics by Jonathan W. Wright.
1976. Academic Press, Inc., New York 463 p.
Variation in Forest Trees by E. Kristian Morgenstern.
1996. UBC Press Vancouver, B.C. 209 p.
Guide to Southern Pine Seed Sources by Clark W. Lantz and
John Kraus. 1987. Southeastern Forest Experiment Station,
Asheville, N.C. Gen. Tech Rep. SE-43. 34 pp.
U.S. Forest Service Seedling Nursery and Tree
web site is a good source of current information and links
on forest tree improvement and seedling