Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Faster Growth for Loblolly Pines from MCP

The Virginia Department of Forestry is trying a new technique to increase the productivity of the loblolly pine seedlings it provides to landowners for reforestation. With mass controlled pollination (MCP) we select the fastest growing, straightest trees in our seed orchard; bag the female flowers before pollen flight; collect pollen from other fast-growing, straight trees; and apply the pollen to bagged flowers when they are receptive. The resulting seeds are thus full-siblings, i.e. have the same mother and father.

The amount of genetic gain from MCP depends upon the performance rating of the parents. We anticipate obtaining MCP seedlings with performance ratings in the range of 40-50 for volume. In comparison, our current second-generation, open-pollinated seedlings have a rating of 25. In simple terms, we are hoping to nearly double the genetic growth advantage with MCP.

MCP is a logistical challenge. We plan to put as many as 5,000 bags on up to 200 trees. Each bag will receive two applications of pollen. Then the bags will need to be removed. The cones will need to be protected and then collected in the Fall of 2010. Since the trees are 20-30 feet high, this translates to a lot of manual labor and bucket truck time.

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