Tree Improvement and Germplasm

Tree Improvement and Germplasm Research

Welcome to the Tree Improvement and Germplasm Research Programme page


Tree improvement is the application of genetic principles to increase the value of tree crops. Each tree species improvement programme is uniquely tailored according to the biology, constraints and the importance of the species to the country’s forestry industry. Tree improvement relies on understanding and using variation that naturally occur in the populations. Tree improvement increases the value of tree species by: 1) Selecting the most desirable tree from natural stands or plantations; 2) Breeding or mating these select tree; 3) Testing the resulting progeny. This three-step process is continuously repeated to further improve the average value of the breeding population. Each interaction of the improvement process is called a generation.

In order to meet the tree planting demands usually a production population referred to as a seed orchard or a group of trees managed specifically for seed production is established. For species which can readily be propagated using cuttings, a hedge orchard or mother garden is managed to produce cutting material. Seed and hedges generated from a tree improvement programme are established from grafts, rooted cuttings or seed of the very best trees in the breeding population. Tree improvement is therefore using genetic variation, and the application of selection, breeding and testing to assess performance of relatives or heritabilities continually improving the value of a population of trees which subsequently are used for the production of adequate quantities of high quality seed and or planting material.

This research programme builds on the long-term species introductions and provenance evaluations undertaken since the beginning of the last century, including both the regional e.g EAAFRO, MONDI, CSIR and international e.g OFI, CAMCORE forest genetic conservation and improvement initiatives.

Main Objective

The overall objective of the tree improvement and germplasm research programme is to continually increase the value of tree crops using genetic principles and subsequently producing adequate quantities of high quality planting materials for afforestation, reforestation, agroforestry and various tree growing needs.

Specific Objectives

The specific objectives of the tree improvement programme are to be reviewed regularly and include the following:


  • Determine priority tree species for afforestation, reforestation, agroforestry and other tree growing needs
  • Determine genetic variation using modern biotechnology tools of the priority species
  • Select trees with the most desirable traits and characteristics to form breeding populations including using marker assisted selection
  • Study the breeding biology and major constraints for the priority tree species
  • Develop breeding strategies of the priority species
  • Assess heritabilities and genetic gains of key traits in the priority species
  • Develop seed and propagation technologies including protocals for tissue culture
  • Design, establish and maintain seed orchards and seed production areas to optimize germplasm production
  • Establish gene banks for conservation of germplasm and forest genetic resources
  • Ensure regular performance assessment of trials focusing on relatives to increase the effectiveness of the selection process, and juvenile mature correlations
  • Determine periodicity and tree seed yields
  • Undertake studies on tree seed science and technology

Ongoing  Projects:

  1. Development of tools and options for pre-breeding of shea nut tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) for improved livelihoods in eastern and northern Uganda
  2. Domestication and propagation of priority plant species for improved health, livelihoods and incomes

Strategic Plan 2016 - 2025

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National Forestry Resources Research Institute (NAFORRI),
Located at Kifu, 12 km on Mukono – Kayunga Road.
P.O.Box: 1752, Kampala,
Tel: 0414383028, 0712161161
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