(Source : Beaulieu, J. 1999)
White spruce is a major component in a number of forest ecosystems in Quebec. It's a species which might be called 'plastic' because it grows well in numerous different soil types and in a variety of climatic conditions. It is not surprising that the white spruce is one of the species most often used in reforestation, particulary in southern Quebec. More than 725 million seedlings were planted between 1964 and 1999, with nearly thirty million seedlings planted annually.
The popularity of this species stems from its incredible yield. In effect, on fertile sites, white spruce can produce almost 230 m³\ha in 50 years, which is an annual average growth of 4.6 m³\ha\year. On sites which are fertile and untreated, the production is even greater than in the natural forest, with a volume of 350m³\ha over 50 years. This data shows that the white spruce is a major contributor to the province's wood supply
The white spruce was one of the first species used for research on genetic improvement. Numerous tests of provenance\origin have been established since the 1950's and 60's by the Canadian Forestry Service (CFS) in collaboration with other agencies. Initial efforts showed that it was possible to select superior phenotypes and to use this genetic pool to develop improved varieties of ecological importance.
Since the end of the 1970's and the beginning of the 1980's, at least a hundred superior phenotypes (tree-plus) have been selected from these superior strains. They constitute the basic material for genetic improvement of the white spruce in Quebec. To date, several hundred controlled cross have been carried out on these trees and tests of bi-parental descentants have been established. In the initial phases of the program of genetic improvement, growth characteristics, stem quality and resistance to insects and disease were factors determined important for the selection of superior trees.
The responsibility of the program on genetic improvement of white spruce was transferred from the CFS to the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources (QMNR) in 1996. The CFS researchers are dedicated to fundamental research in genetics and genetic engineering to develop the tools for accelerating the process of selection and improvement.