- Tree breeding is the application of genetic principles to the genetic improvement and management of forest trees.
- In contrast to the selective breeding of livestock, arable crops, and horticultural flowers over the last few centuries, the breeding of trees, with the exception of fruit trees, is a relatively recent occurrence.
- A typical forest tree breeding program starts with the selection of superior phenotypes (plus trees) in a natural or planted forest. This improves the genotypes
- Offspring is obtained from selected trees and grown in test plantations.
- Based on such tests the best genotypes among the parents can be selected.
- Selected trees are typically multiplied by grafting and seed orchards are established when the preferred output is improved seed.
- Alternatively, the best genotypes can be directly propagated by cuttings or in-vitro methods and used directly in clonal plantations.
- The first system is frequently used in pines and other conifers, while the second is typical in broadleaves (poplars, eucalyptus, and others).
- The objectives of a breeding tree program range from yield improvement and adaptation to particular conditions, to pest-resistance, wood characters etc.
- Currently, tree breeding is gaining new interest under the threat of Global Warming, and it is taking advantage of the fast development in plant genetics and genomics (the study of gene structure).
- Tree breeders make efforts to get their operation efficient by optimizing tree breeding.
- Scientists develop tools aimed at improvement of the efficiency of tree breeding programmes.
- Optimising can mean adapting strategies and methods to certain species, group of populations, and structure of genetic variation and mode of inheritance of the important traits to obtain the highest benefit per unit of time.
- Optimising is usually carried out at the following levels:
- Breeding strategy (appropriate intensity of breeding, breeding population structure and size, plan for maintenance of genetic diversity)
- Breeding methods (mating type, testing and selection methods, testing population size and time)
- Deployment methods of the genetically improved material (seed orchards and clonal forestry: genetic contribution, size).
- Computer simulators are frequently used: stochastic – based on defined and random algorithms; and deterministic – based on defined algorithms.
- Reviews about optimizing have been written for animal breeding but not tree breeding.
- Selection strategies have been compared for annual progress in long-term breeding at a given annual cost considering genetic gain, gene diversity, cost components, and time components.
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Naeem Javid Muhammad Hassani is working as Conservator of Forests in Balochistan Forest & Wildlife Department (BFWD). He is the CEO of Tech Urdu (techurdu.net) Forestrypedia (forestrypedia.com), All Pak Notifications (allpaknotifications.com), Essayspedia, etc & their YouTube Channels). He is an Environmentalist, Blogger, YouTuber, Developer & Vlogger.