Current issue: 54(3)
Seedlings of Picea abies (L.) H. Karst. full-sib families of contrasting origins were cultivated in a phytotron under different photoperiodic, light-intensity and temperature treatments during their first growth period. The effects of the treatments on juvenile growth traits – whether enhanced or delayed maturation was induces – were observed during the two subsequent growth periods. The following hypotheses were tested: (A) Enhanced maturation can be induced in the first growth period from sowing with (i) a long period of continuous light during active growth (24 weeks vs. 8 weeks); (ii) a shorter night during bud maturation (12 h vs. 16 h); high temperature (25°C vs. 20°C) during (iii) active growth, growth cessation and bud maturation; and during (iv) the latter part of growth cessation and bud maturation only. (B) Delayed maturation can be induced after (i) low light intensity during growth cessation and bud maturation (114 μmol m-2 s-1 vs. 340 μmol m-2 s-1); low temperature (15°C vs. 20°C) during (ii) active growth, growth cessation and bud maturation; and during (iii) the latter part of growth cessation and bud maturation only.
The most dramatic effect was observed after 24 weeks of continuous light during active growth. All traits showed a significantly more mature performance in the second growth period compared with the control. The effect for all but one trait was carried over to the third growth period. This is in accordance with the hypothesis that the activity of apical shoot meristems controls the maturation process. For the other treatments there was only weak or no support for the hypothesis of induction of enhanced or delayed maturation. Strong family effects were observed for all traits. Differential responses of the various latitudinal families were observed, suggesting that family effects must be considered to predict and interpret correctly how plants will respond to environmental effects.
Studies of phenotypic as well as mixed population plasticities are urgently needed in a world that supposedly experiences a gradual change of its environment. It is important to understand that man creates his environment and silviculture. This is one of the reasons why for breeding it cannot be expected to find optimal phenotypes in nature. Other reasons are the phylogenetic constraints and migration of pollen and seeds.
Forest genetics up to now is characterized by the study of one trait at a time. There is an urgent need for simultaneous analysis of several traits by the aid of genetic correlations or multivariate analysis. Generally there is a need for inclusion of larger numbers of genetic entries in forest genetic investigations.
For the long-rotation-time species there is a need to determine the curves for degree of dormancy and hardiness during the annual cycle. Information of plasticity in two-dimensional environments like water availability and temperature is needed. Studies on nutrient utilization and acquisition will tell us whether or not we must have different breeding populations for different soil fertilities. An understanding of the phase changes between juvenile and adult opens up possible applications such as faster generation turn-over in the breeding population via early flowering and early testing as well as better plants for frost-prone and weedy sites.