Tree breeding is a long-term activity that requires both a considerable commitment and balanced use of genetic, physical, human and financial resources (Doran 1992). All breeding programmes need to efficiently use limited resources. In the case of a M. alternifolia programme, analytical requirements for the determination of leaf oil traits are a major criteria in the selection of a breeding strategy.
The major genetic resource available for use in a M. alternifolia breeding programme is seed collected from natural stands. Plantation trees do not represent a desirable genetic resource in terms of seed, however, they could be used as a source of clones for inclusion in the programme. Collection of seed from plantations is generally not feasible or desirable, as plantations are usually harvested annually and so do not produce mature seed. Additionally any seed that did result from a plantation, is likely to be highly inbred as plantations are usually established using seed from only a limited number of parent trees.
The physical resources include suitable sites to establish and maintain progeny trials and orchards. Sites for open pollinated orchards need to be located in isolation from stray pollen. Physical resources also include the facilities used to implement the breeding strategy, such as a nursery to grow seedlings and clones, an equipped laboratory to determine leaf oil characteristics and appropriate room and equipment to store, process and analyse samples and results.
For a strategy to be successful, funding has to be both adequate and long-term. An appropriate budget allows for the initial capital and then on-going costs of tree breeding, while providing funds for the employment of personnel, their transport and communication.
Breeding for tree improvement is becoming a highly specialised science, particularly in the field of mathematical statistics for efficient selection and quantitative genetics when predicting the consequences of selection (Eldridge et al. 1993). To develop and manage a strategy efficiently, a team of specialists and technical assistants is needed.
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