Current issue: 56(4)
Genetically improved Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) are extensively used in operational Swedish forestry plantations. However, relatively little is known about the stem slenderness (height-diameter ratio) of genetically improved material. Thus, in this study we investigated effects of plus-tree selection on stem slenderness of Norway spruce and Scots pine in Sweden by evaluating both the plus-tree selection and a large number of progeny trials. Species-specific models for predicting the height-diameter ratio were estimated using regression and mixed model approach. Our results show that phenotypic plus-tree selection promoted less slender Norway spruce trees and more slender Scots pine trees compared to neighboring trees. Similar results were also found for the progeny trials which indicated that genetics played a prominent role in the phenotypic appearance. Compared to the progeny of neighboring trees, Norway spruce plus-tree progenies had a 5.3% lower height-diameter ratio, while Scots pine plus-tree progenies had a 1.5% greater height-diameter ratio. The narrow sense heritability for height-diameter ratio was 0.19 for Norway spruce and 0.11 for Scots pine, indicating that it is possible to modify the height-diameter ratio by breeding. Correlation coefficients between breeding values for height-diameter ratio and diameter were negative for Scots pine (–0.71) and Norway spruce (–0.85), indicating that selection for diameter only would result in less slender stems of both species. Similar correlations were also found between breeding values for height-diameter ratio and height of Scots pine (–0.34) and Norway spruce (–0.74).
Genetically improved Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) are used extensively in operational Swedish forestry plantations to increase production. Depending on the genetic status of the plant material, the current estimated genetic gain in growth is in the range 10–20% for these species and this is expected to increase further in the near future. However, growth models derived solely from data relating to genetically improved material in Sweden are still lacking. In this study we investigated whether an individual tree growth model based on data from unimproved material could be used to predict the height increment in young trials of genetically improved Norway spruce and Scots pine. Data from 11 genetic experiments with large genetic variation, ranging from offspring of plus-trees selected in the late 1940s to highly improved clonal materials selected from well performing provenances were used. The data set included initial heights at the age of 7–15 years and 5-year increments for almost 2000 genetic entries and more than 20 000 trees. The evaluation indicated that the model based on unimproved trees predicted height development relatively well for genetically improved Norway spruce and there was no need to incorporate a genetic component. However, for Scots pine, the model needed to be modified. A genetic component was developed based on the genetic difference recorded within each trial, using mixed linear models and methods from quantitative genetics. By incorporating the genetic component, the prediction errors were significantly reduced for Scots pine. This study provides the first step to incorporate genetic gains into Swedish growth models and forest management planning systems.