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Somatic embryogenesis (SE) initiation in Pinus strobus was optimized by the manipulation of plant growth regulator (PGR) concentrations in the culture medium. Modified Litvay medium (MLV) of Litvay et al. (1985) supplemented with lower than routinely used PGR concentration increased initiation of established embryogenic cultures from approximately 20 to 53%. The original developmental stage of zygotic embryos had a pronounced effect on the SE response. The optimum stage was the pre- to shortly post-cleavage stage. A substantial genetic influence on initiation of SE was indicated by a significant variance component due to families. Genotype X collection date and genotype X media interactions had large effects on initiation of SE. The PGR levels in the culture medium prior to maturation had a significant effect on subsequent production of mature somatic embryos. Embryogenic tissue initiated and proliferated on medium with a low level of PGR consistently produced a high number of somatic embryos, indicating that optimized initiation protocol also enhanced somatic embryo production. Somatic embryos of 93 embryogenic lines (representing five families) that were initiated on media with different PGR concentrations were converted to plants at an overall frequency of 76%, and grown in the greenhouse. With these improved protocols, application of P. strobus SE in commercial clonal forestry is feasible as an alternative to traditional breeding and reforestation.