In the annual meeting held in Chile in 2012, Camcore members, mainly from southern Africa, agreed to embark on a cooperative breeding program of P. patula x P. tecunumanii using Camcore selections. The main objectives of the program were to 1) produce 250 full-sib families of the hybrid to be tested in progeny trials and 2) select the best families and best individuals in the progeny trials for operational deployment in commercial plantations.
The project is being implemented in the P. patula clonal seed orchard at Lions River, Howick, part of the Sappi Shaw Research Centre. Pollen collections and controlled crosses began in 2013, and 53 crosses were made that year. These activities continued with 111 new crosses in 2014 and 135 in 2015. Forty-three females of P. patula have been crossed with 53 males of P. tecunumanii HE and 44 males of P. tecunumanii LE. Two hail storms damaged the seed orchard, one in 2013 and another in 2014, causing losses of over 60% of the cones. With the number of crosses completed so far, it is very likely that the target of 250 full-sib families will be reached in 2016. The seeds produced will be sent to regional coordinators to grow hedges for vegetative propagation and distribution of rooted cuttings for the establishment of the progeny trials. Before seed distribution to the regional coordinators, verification of true hybridity will be made using molecular markers on seedlings. Crosses between the parents of the best families selected from the trials at eight years of age will be repeated for seed production. Again, these seeds will be used to grow hedges in the nursery to produce cuttings at a commercial scale for plantation establishment.