Multi-varietal forestry

Improving plantation performance for a globally competitive fibre supply

Trees grow more rapidly in many parts of the world than they do in Canada, because of more favourable climates and growing conditions. In order to be competitive globally, the Canadian forest industry is looking to produce high-quality wood fibre in economically significant volumes at the fastest rate possible given our growing conditions.

Every year, approximately 640 million trees are planted in Canada. Tree breeding programs across the country work to maximize the quality and productivity of these trees, looking for innovative methods to produce seedlings that will not only grow quickly and consistently, but will produce trees with the desired fibre attributes, resistance to pests and adaptability to climate change.

Conifer seedling

The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and its provincial, academic and industry partners have developed a new technique that improves upon conventional tree breeding techniques. Multi-varietal forestry (MVF) uses sophisticated technologies for mass propagation such as somatic embryogenesis and cryo-preservation, matching genetically improved stock with appropriate sites to increase productivity, volume gain and quality in forest plantations. To date, MVF is an approach that has been shown to increase wood production without compromising important wood properties, such as density.

Research with white spruce on prime growing sites in New Brunswick has shown that MVF can increase volume gain by more than 20% over conventional seed orchard rates. This rate of volume gain can reduce the time to harvest to 35 years from the usual 45 years. In addition, trees of predictable size and quality will reduce sorting and transportation costs.

White spruce stand

The knowledge obtained by MVF allows forest managers to confidently forecast plantation output, plan wood supply for particular end-products, and conduct realistic financial analyses to evaluate silvicultural investments over time. It will also allow the forest industry to benefit more quickly from long-term investments in tree improvement.

The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and its research partners are working to refine MVF as an advanced tool for value-oriented forest management planning.