2016-04-27   facebook twitter rss

Animal Breeders Research Tree Pedigrees

Researchers from Edinburgh University have used the latest animal breeding techniques to estimate the genetic value of selected trees from the most important commercial conifer species grown in Britain.

Forest Research, which is now working with the Sitka Spruce Breeding Co-operative (SSBC), commissioned a thorough and independent re-analysis of all the Sitka spruce progeny testing data ever collected over a 40-year period.

7 year old Sitka Spruce

7 year old Sitka Spruce

The aim of the research carried out by experienced animal breeders was to enable the ranking of nearly 2,000 trees originally selected in forests growing all over Britain for their height, diameter, wood density, stem straightness and occasionally branching quality breeding values. Once this is known more informed decisions can be made on how to progress the Sitka spruce breeding programme in the future, and which are the best full-sibling families to plant today. Best Linear Unbiased Predictor or BLUP is a statistical technique common to animal breeding and now widely used in tree breeding to determine the value of selected individuals. Computational power available today has finally matched the BLUP theory devised in the 1950s which allows each tree to be included in a massive pedigree analysis across all the trial sites with other related trees such that data from both parents, half-siblings, cousins or even grandparents can all contribute to the final breeding value estimation of a selected individual.

Dr Steve Lee from Forest Research and Chairman of the Sitka Coop said:
“This was a massive job of data comparison from scores of different trial sites planted over a long time period. As well as pedigree comparison, it involved weighting each site for quality of data, and inclusion of genetic correlations with related traits to determine an overall BLUP Breeding Value for each parent and family ever put out to test. The huge dataset analysed by the Edinburgh University included mainly old data previously analysed in isolation and new full-sibling data which had not previously been analysed at all.

Tim Liddon a Director of the Sitka Co-op added:
“This is important news for the industry and shows that being selective in ones choice of full sibling family will increase timber yield and quality significantly, whilst not necessarily diminishing genetic diversity. This bodes well for our second generation plantations.

The Sitka Spruce Breeding Co-operative is a limited company that was formed as a not-for-profit co-operative, early in 2014. Membership of the Sitka Co-op has grown over the last year with additional Full and Associate members. Membership now covers a broad range of interests form seed business through nurseries to forest management companies, owners and timber processers plus academia.


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