The evolution of forest genetics and tree improvement research in the United States

Nicholas C. Wheeler, Kim C. Steiner, Scott E. Schlarbaum, David B. Neale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Forest genetics (FG) research in the United States began more than 100 years ago with racial (seed source) trials of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex C. Lawson) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirb.] Franco) and over the ensuing four decades gradually emerged as a distinct and important discipline of study within the forestry research community. Coupled with the allied field of tree improvement (TI), the discipline enjoyed rapid and expansive growth for more than 30 years beginning in the early 1950s. The subsequent 30 years witnessed an equally dramatic contraction and transformation of the FG/TI community. We review the economic, social, and policy factors that contributed to the decline of FG/TI and the transformation to a discipline that now includes a strong ecosystem management component. Cautionary lessons are coupled with a call for enhanced funding of traditional and genomic FG/TI efforts in the face of growing forest health and climate change threats that are having profound effects in the nation’s forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-510
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Forestry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Plant Science


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