In Pinus spp., initiation of somatic embryogenesis (SE) is influenced by the developmental stage of immature embryos, the genotype of the parent trees and the formulation of tissue culture medium. Optimizing all these factors can lead to improved initiation and proliferation response; however, few studies have focused on improving these stages. For this reason, the objectives of this research were to determine the best immature zygotic embryo developmental stage for initiation and to test the effect of different sources of organic nitrogen in the initiation and proliferation steps in Pinus radiata SE. We have determined and verified the optimum zygotic embryo developmental stages 2–4 for embryogenic tissue (ET) initiation and proliferation and identified the most responsive seed families in two consecutive years. Besides EDM (Walter et al. 1998), medium with high gellan gum content during ET proliferation maintained the embryogenic tissue in a better micro-morphological arrangement for a longer time.