Tree Improvement through Controlled Pollination Breeding at the JDI Parkindale Seed Orchard

J.D. Irving, Limited’s (JDI) tree improvement program started almost 40 years ago.

The tree improvement process included selection of the best individuals in the region’s forests for qualities like rapid growth, tree straightness, and freedom from insect and disease problems. Traditional methods of grafting and planting these trees for quality seed production began at the Parkindale Seed Orchard.

This process continues today, allowing for cross pollination among the best trees to produce well-adapted genetically-superior seed for use in the nurseries.

Regular seed production is wind pollinated – trees in the orchard cross-pollinate as pollen is released into the air and lands on the receptive female flowers of another tree.

JDI also produces seeds with two known parents for testing across the region. These trees also form the basis for the next generation of tree improvement.

“We’re using nature to produce healthy seeds and trees for the future,” said Hartmut Kunze, Manager of the Parkindale Seed Orchard and the Sussex Tree Nursery. “During the month of May, we isolate the female flowers in pollen proof bags to prevent cross-pollination from random trees. We then collect the pollen from selected male buds, and spray that pollen into the bags so that we know the mother and father of the future seedlings. Typically 5 to 20 flowers are covered in a single bag and each will produce 10-40 seeds. I have been part of this program from the beginning, and it is very gratifying to see new generations of healthy seedlings renewing our region’s forests.”

JDI tree improvement specialists measure up to 50,000 trees in the forests per year to guide the tree improvement program and this is resulting in trees growing up to 25% faster. In addition, these trees are high quality and resistant to some pests.

The Parkindale Seed Orchard typically produces up to 50 million seeds per year for operational seedling production depending on the cone crop and the nursery requirements.

This year, JDI’s Juniper Nursery will grow 16 million seeds for planting in the forests that JDI owns or manages. To date, over 940 million seedlings have been planted – a national record in Canada.

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