Western white pine tree breeding program
The goal of the western white pine breeding program is to provide disease-resistant material for operational deployment. Close to one million seedlings are planted annually, all of which come from seed produced in seed orchards.
The breeding program is split into two zones: one that services the west coast and one that services the interior of British Columbia east of the Coastal Mountains.
The main focus of the program is to breed disease resistance for a pathogen that was introduced to North America from Eurasia in the early 20th century. The rust fungus known as white pine blister rust has a complex lifecycle with alternating spore stages and multiple hosts. The alternate hosts are various species of currants (Ribes) which pass on the infection to the trees.
The rust has devastated populations of western white pine which once dominated the landscape in Idaho and the southern interior of B.C. and was a minor component of stands on the coast.