The Tasks of Russian Conifer Society

1) The consolidation of people interested in conifers: experts and connoisseurs, professionals and amateurs, theorists and practitioners, collectors and landscape designers, growers and consumers of a planting stock. We are scattered all over the towns and villages of our vast country, often without even knowing the existence of each other. That is wrong. Let us join our hands, friends! Let us register on this site and work together.

2) Opening up Russian flora of conifers. There are not many – about 30 species (less than 5% of the total number on the planet). We must learn to grow and to introduce into cultivation all potentially suitable Russian species. Here is an example. Dwarf Siberian pine (Pinus pumila) is a wonderfully decorative and a very useful species in all respects, widespread (from Lake Baikal to the Chukotka peninsula) and suitable for cultivation throughout the boreal and temperate forest zones. Currently it is not used in landscape gardening because there is no seedling on the market. Let’s get to work! We have not many species. But many of them have a vast transcontinental area. It is very important in all respects. One more example: Siberian larch (Larix sibirica). If we collect its seeds in Norilsk and sow them in the South of Siberia (the more in the European part of Russia), nothing will come out of this because of the not suitable climatic conditions. The seedlings will die if not immediately than in a few years. Who will summarize all the information and inform the gardening public? Exactly! Nobody but us!

3) The investigation and reservation of the Russian species diversity. Any species are variable and presented in nature by a great variety of ecotypes, populations, forms, and individuals. Each individual has their parents therefore it is unique. Even within the crown, one of the branches (for example, "witches’ broom") may differ from the rest, also by genotype. The species which have been introduced into the garden culture and involved in artificial selection for a long time, have the diversity that increases manifold in comparison with natural species. For example, American species Thuja occidentalis currently have hundreds decorative cultivars of all growth rates, color of leaves, crown shapes, etc. These cultivars were bred in a relatively mild maritime climate, so they may not be quite resistant in a hard continental climate. Our wood species do not differ from any other in terms of their genetic diversity. Hence, they can display exactly the same wide range of decorative types, which for all that will feel like at home in Russia. The task of the Society is to continue and intensify this work: to find new and interesting forms, to propagate and test them.

4) The testing of the foreign species. With all the love to our home Russia, it should be stated it is the poorest part of our planet in respect of coniferous diversity. 5 species of spruce (of 35 species), 5 species of fir (of 50), 5 species of pine (of 115). Frankly it is not a lot. Hence the task is to enrich our cultural flora by foreign conifers suitable for life in Russia. Everyone has heard about global warming. It exists actually, Russia is not avoided. The modern Moscow climate is similar to Central European climate of the mid 20th century. It is obvious that plants especially trees can't spread on the planet as fast as the global warming does. That white fir or black pine naturally "come" to us from the Central Europe, it is necessary a long period of time. Why not help them? It is the task of introduction. Our aim is to analyze the world's coniferous flora, to highlight promising species, and to organize their competitive test.

(5) The testing of foreign cultivars. The number of cultivars of all species which are involved in the breeding process is measured by tens if not by hundreds. Especially a lot of undersized (dwarf) cultivars originated from witches' brooms. Most of them are extremely promising for the severe Russian conditions because spend the winter under the snow as opposed to the full-size wild-type plants. Therefore, the number of species that are promising for introduction in this form is much higher. It is no exaggeration to say that every tall tree species for a BIG GARDEN has not even one, or not even many, but very many (some species has hundreds) dwarf cultivars produced from it, suitable for creating a SMALL GARDEN. During the 20th century the landscape design of little plots has become extremely popular all over the civilized world. That is clear. After all, hectares are necessary for the creation of a BIG GARDEN; to create a SMALL GARDEN, several hundreds square meters will be enough. Conifer cultivars are undersized to varying degrees and strikingly varied in general. Their testing in Russia is the most important and a very ambitious task. Well, " what the eyes fear, the hands do": say our wise people.  

(6) Promotion of the breeding process on the basis of Russian and world genetic diversity. Even in countries with a long-lasting history and an advanced culture of decorative conifers cultivation, the breeding process as a rule is not particularly intensive. So, in terms of grafting cultivars of pine, spruce, fir and larch, the breeding process is limited by the search for new "witches’ brooms" and, at best, the selection among them. Only few people in the world devote themselves to growing seed progeny of cultivars from the free pollination with the subsequent selection. Meanwhile the real breeding is the controlled cross pollination and the selection in the progeny. And exactly the intensive breeding is important for Russia because we do not have tens and even hundreds of years, during which a variety of Eastern and Western grafting cultivars based on their natural gene pool is bred. So, we need a program of hybridization between our steady but not quite decorative plants and their decorative, but not steady cultivars. Other breeding methods are not less important including induced mutagenesis.

(7) The Society members coordination to establish a network of testing plantation and breeding centers. Introduction zoning of the Russian territory.  Species and cultivars zonation, the development of the technology of their reproduction and growing. Russia is a vast country. To talk about it in general is pointless because its natural conditions are more diverse than, for example, in the whole Europe. Therefore Russia zoning is necessary with regard to our task: range, methods of reproduction, growing technology. It is an enormous work. We have no possibility to organize it as a special work. But we can organize and summarize the appearing experience. It is the main task of the Society. Your work is to post information on the website. Our work is to analyze and make it available to other users.

(8) Cultivars nomenclature, standardization of their descriptions, certification (including genetic).  It is obvious that a vegetatively reproduced clone should ideally have one name given by the originator. But it is not always possible. Many cultivars have synonyms and trade names. They are different in different countries. All this information should be recorded and archived somewhere. Where else, if not here, in our site? It is logical to use the same terminology in describing cultivars and the description should be done according to a single scheme. This standard description is a kind of the cultivar passport. Passport without a photo is not valid. Moreover, it is better to have not one, but several photos: at different ages and under different growing conditions. Considering the current achevement of genetics, it is logical to include a molecular (DNA) identifier in this passport, at least the simplest one. The certification of cultivars is a big, complex, multi-year task. There are still a lot of gaps in this information field. It is a huge work for the whole world conifer community. At the first stage, we will be concentrated on collecting information of Russian cultivars in our Database. Perhaps in the future, it comes down to international projects.

(9) Synthesis of information on the use of species and varieties in garden culture and landscape design. A great diversity of species and cultivars requires not only botanical, but also technological and "esthetic" systematization. To create harmonious garden objects, it is necessary to know their compatibility in terms of light and soil conditions, allelopatic interactions. Their classification by size, growth rate, color of needles, crown shape and other significant features is equally important. The ideal option is to create a kind of "palette" of species and cultivars that a landscape designer could use in his work when choosing a planting material.

Therefore, in the future the section Conifers in Garden Design will have a significant place on our site.

(10) Summarization of experience on complex forms of conifer growing. This direction of work is called dendroart. This concerns container culture, including classical bonsai; trimming, pruning and other techniques of artificially changing the shape of trees, including nivaki; finally, multiple grafts of special cultivars on specially shaped stocks of unusual shape. We intend to promote the dissemination of these science- and art-intensive methods of conifer cultivation in Russia.

 

 

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