Steve McKeand, Emeritus Professor of Forest Genetics at North Carolina State University, has spent his career improving tree genetics for forest plantations. Each year more than 250,000 hectares of trees are planted using genetics originating from the Cooperative Tree Improvement program at North Carolina State, making it the largest forest tree planting program in the world. Prof. McKeand credits collaboration between the university, landowners and private companies for the program’s success.
In this episode of Plant Breeding Stories, we explore how the cooperative model for tree improvement originated in the southern United States. Prof McKeand talks about the traits tree breeders are particularly interested in improving, and discusses why patience is not just a virtue, but a necessity in forestry. He also explains how tree breeding tools and technology have changed since his work began and how forest plantations can help preserve more diverse ecosystems.