Reducing the generation turnover increases the genetic gain in a breeding programme. Topgrafting, new genetic material being grafted into the crown of ramets of reproductive mature trees, can deliver this aim since it is able to induce strobili production in young material of conifers.
To this end, I studied the effect of scion age (seedlings of 4–6 years from seed) on topgraft vitality/survival, and female and male strobili production in Pinus sylvestris (L.) over 5 years. The seedlings' growing environment prior to topgrafting had a significant impact on topgraft
vitality, with more vital topgrafts obtained from potted seedlings than from seedlings grown in raised nursery beds. However, the growth environment had no clear effect on female or male strobili production. In the second year, after grafting up to 76% of the topgrafted seedlings had female
strobili. Vitality increased with age of the seedling from which the scions were collected, but differences in both female and male strobili production were only marginal. The position of the topgraft within the interstock crown influenced both vitality and strobili production, with higher
vitality and greater male strobili production in low positions and greater female strobili production in high positions. Based on these results, breeders should perform topgrafting as soon as the seedlings have enough scions for planned crossing activities.