DNA testing

Brief summary of what is intended and what will be available

  • Tree breeders have never wanted to wait to the end of the rotation before making selections of the best trees for volume, wood density or stem straightness. This would take too long and decisions can be made at much earlier ages if younger characteristics can be found to be well correlated with later ones. For example 6-year height is well correlated with close to final rotation volume.
  • Even so it takes round 20-years to plan a field trial and wait for the results.
  • In addition, field trials are very expensive and have to be repeated across a number of representative sites to ensure constant performance across the country.
  • How much better if breeders could identify the winners by looking at the DNA; without ever having to plant expensive field trials and wait up to 20-years for results?
  • Technology has now progressed so far in diary breeding that progeny testing is nearly a thing of the past; decisions are made for milk yields, fat content etc. based on looking at the DNA in the laboratory. It saves time and money, and actually increases genetic gain.
  • This area of science is moving quickly. SSBC Member ‘Forest Research’ has an active DNA-selection programme in development with positive early signs of success. The Co-op will be taking a close watching brief of this exciting new area over the next few years in a bid to increase the rate of genetic gain deployed in the forest.
  • In the meantime, SSBC is developing a programme of DNA-fingerprinting all the parents in the breeding programme. This is important for Quality Assurance in clonebanks and seed orchards, checking that pollen and seed is what it claims to be, and checking for panmixes and pollen-contamination in seed orchards.
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