Interior Spruce Tree Breeding Program

Interior spruce is the oldest tree improvement program in the British Columbia Interior. It began in the early 1960s with genecology research and provenance testing, before evolving into a large-scale tree breeding program in 1967.

The breeding program is structured in two series:

  1. Series one began in 1967 with parent tree selection, grafting and wind-pollinated progeny testing in three ecologically and geographically unique regions: Prince George, Prince Rupert (Bulkley Valley) and East Kootenay
  2. Series two began in the mid-1970s and focussed on the remaining geographic regions where spruce was commercially and ecologically important

Seed Planting Zones

Presently, B.C. is subdivided into six discrete seed planning zones (SPZ) for tree improvement. The major traits selected for improvement include growth (tree height, diameter, volume) and terminal weevil resistance.

The program has progressed to the point where more than two billion improved interior spruce seedlings have been planted in B.C. since 1980. In 2015, 94 percent of the 71.5 million spruce seedlings planted in B.C. came from improved first-generation seed orchards. Compared to average wild-stand seedlings, these improved seedlings are predicted to result in gains of over 20 percent in tree volume at rotation age.

Series one second-generation full-sib progeny tests were established in 1996, 1997 and 1999 for the Prince George, East Kootenay and Bulkley Valley SPZs, respectively. Forward selections have been made in all three seed planning zones.

Progress

Current research activities focus on:

  • Genecology testing in contrasting environments to facilitate climate-based seed transfer
  • Development of terminal weevil resistant genotypes based on nursery screening with laboratory reared weevil populations
  • Developing improved phenotyping techniques and genetic markers genomic selection to identify weevil resistant genotypes