Already in the 1970’s selection of fast growing clones of Salix was started in Sweden and in 1985 a Salix breeding programme was established at SLU. The responsibility for the breeding has gradually been taken over by Svalöf Weibull AB and since 2002 all breeding of Salix is performed by Lantmännen (previously Lantmännen Agroenergi AB and now Lantmännen SW Seed).
Breeding has resulted in up to 60% increase in biomass yield, but there is still a great potential for further improvements. Today ten high-yielding varieties are found on the market but to ensure a high production of Salix in the long-term perspective it is necessary that the plant material is continuously developed, both for the Swedish market and for export. Today’s market demand in Sweden is 600 ha/year which is expected to double up within the next five years. In Europe the demand is expected to increase even more from 2000 ha/year today to 6000 ha/year. New Salix clones, suitable for different conditions, have to be produced if Sweden will continue to lead the production and marketing of high yielding Salix clones in Europe.
The construction of genetic maps and identification of areas in the genome linked to growth and resistance has been performed at SLU, and this work has revealed the possibilities to develop stable genetic markers. This is the starting point for the work in the new project.