“Until recently, pine programs have not had the luxury of using clones produced through vegetative propagation,” Rousseau says. “But this method allows exceptional gains because all of the inherent genetic variation can be captured. The special advantage of somatic embryogenesis is that once thoroughly tested individuals are found that combine the desired traits being sought, it can be rapidly multiplied, with each individual being genetically identical to the selected tree.”

Varietal pine, the term given to the development of pine clones, is currently the top genetic level of pine tree improvement today, he notes.

“Although this is expensive — seedlings produced with this method cost about $435 per 1,000 — they provide the grower with the highest quality genetic material available.”

While more acres are being planted each year to mass control pollinated and varietal seedlings, Rousseau says, “Before planting, landowners should be fully aware of how these advanced genetic seedlings perform in their general area in order to realize the genetic potential.”

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To develop more information about how these genetically superior trees will perform, he says cooperative landowners are being sought for a statewide committee that would meet a couple of times yearly, make on-site visits, and evaluate recommendations. There would also be an online forum for questions and discussion, as well as providing information about how landowners can take advantage of genetics currently on the market.