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GenESIS Project

Genomic Evaluation for the Sustainable Improvement of Sitka spruce (GenESIS)


Tree breeding enabling the selection of faster growing trees with desirable traits has the potential to increase productivity, carbon sequestration and storage and increase the output of sawn timber for the forestry sector in Ireland. However tree breeding is a long-term process as it can take 30-40 years before a tree matures and its true value is known.

The Irish Sitka Spruce Tree Improvement Programme (ISSTIP) has been in operation for several decades, and has selected individuals whose progeny produce the greatest yield of timber; however,, to date no genetic characterisation of these individuals has been carried out.

Genomic selection offers the potential to accelerate the selection of improved progeny by using DNA information to predict the breeding value of an individual tree and determine whether an individual will have desirable traits without having to wait for the traits to manifest. Genetic characterisation of the Irish Sitka spruce would therefore help to ensure continued improvement of the Irish Sitka spruce population.

The project

The GenESIS Project is composed of three tasks focused on genetic and phenotypic characterisation of the ISSTIP and Sitka provenance trials.:

  • Collecting new phenotypes on ISSTIP material
  • Developing a genotyping platform for Sitka spruce populations
  • Assessing the viability of genomics-based breeding strategies


  • More intensive selection criteria for improved Sitka spruce
  • Assessment of wood quality of plus trees
  • A new Sitka spruce genotyping platform
  • Genetic characterisation of advanced breeding population and IUFRO collection
  • Molecular tools for monitoring seed orchard efficiency
  • Assessment of potential drought and pest resilience in the ISSTIP


Further information

Project partners

The GENESIS Project coordinated by Dr Niall Farrelly of Teagasc, is a collaboration between scientists from Teagasc, UCD Forestry, Trinity College, NUI Galway and National Botanic Gardens and Coillte, the Irish Forestry Board.


The project was awarded as part of the 2017 competitive fund for research proposals which is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) under grant number 17/C/297.