Current issue: 54(2)
Increased growth rates have reduced rotation lengths, increasing the proportion of juvenile wood relative to mature wood, which may negatively affect mechanical performance of sawn timber. However, there is limited information available on the potential impact of breeding for vigour on juvenile wood in Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrière). In this study, the relationship between vigour (based on total height) and wood properties was investigated in six-year-old Sitka spruce clones grown in two replicated field trials in Ireland. Six clones were evaluated, two clones from each of three vigour (high, intermediate and low) classes. Discs were cut from the base of one ramet per replication for each clone to assess wood quality attributes. Radial tracheid width was significantly and positively correlated with ring width and height, and was negatively correlated with density. The wood of the most vigorous clone had significantly larger ring width with thinner cell walls and wider tracheids than all clones in the two other vigour classes, resulting in lower mean wood density. Latewood properties for all wood attributes measured differed significantly between the two sites. Wood property differences resulted primarily from variation in the proportions of early- and latewood in each annual ring. Additionally, the width of early- and latewood bands in each ring was found to be a more important determinant of juvenile wood quality than the characteristics of the cells within each band. Wood properties differed greatly between clones, suggesting that there is potential to improve juvenile wood properties through selective breeding.
Competitive interactions in clonal forestry are not well understood and this needs to be addressed to develop better deployment strategies. Eight juvenile Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carriére) clones were grown in monoclonal and clonal mixtures in a field experiment for three years to assess the effects of genetic diversity on shoot growth, above- and below-ground biomass partitioning and crown characteristics. Shoot elongation was measured throughout the growing season, while diameter was measured twice annually in May and December. After the third year, crown silhouette area was estimated from digitised images for one ramet per plot and ramets were then destructively harvested. Deployment × clone interactions were observed for tree height and diameter with reductions observed in mixed plots. Mixed plots had significantly greater height and diameter heterogeneity and more asymmetrical competition than monoclonal plots. Results from this study demonstrate that stem growth can be significantly altered when clones are planted in multi-clonal mixtures but for most clones, deployment-type will not significantly reduce their productivity.