An effective breeding strategy accumulates genetic gain over each successive generation in the cycle of progeny testing, selection and mating (Figure 2). This successive gain is achieved through maintenance of the three populations needed in the cycle to supply the genetically
improved material for a fourth population (Eldridge et al. 1993), which for M. alternifolia is the oil producing plantation. These four populations are—
1. Base population—The gene resource, includes trees in natural stands and some plantations which are suitable for selection. This base resource of genetic variation will continue to be a source for selection to meet future breeding needs.
2. Breeding population—The trees and their progeny which are repeatedly tested, selected and mated over many generations to progressively improve genetic gain.
3. Propagation population—The trees selected from the breeding population to mass produce genetically improved planting material.
4. Production population—The trees in a plantation for the production of tea tree oil.
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