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Quantitative genetics of growth and development in Populus. I. A three-generation comparison of tree architecture during the first 2 years of growth


One approach to gain an insight into the genetics of tree architecture is to make use of morphologically divergent parents and study their segregating progeny in the F2 and backcross (B1) generations. This approach was chosen in the present study in which material of a three-generation pedigree growing side by side in a replicated plantation, was analyzed. The pedigree included Populus trichocarpa (T) and P. deltoides (D) parents, their F1 and F2 hybrids and their B1 hybrids to the D parent. The trees were grown in the environment of the T parent and measured for the first 2 years of growth. Nine quantitative traits were studied at the stem, branch and leaf levels of tree architecture, in which the original parents differed. Strong F1 hybrid vigor relative to the better parent (T) was expressed in growth and its components. Most quantitative traits in the F2 and B1 hybrids were intermediate between the T and D parents but displayed a wide range of variation due to segregation. The results from the analysis of variance indicated that all morphometric traits were significantly different among F2 and B1 clones, but the B1 hybrids were more sensitive to replicates than the F2. Broad-sense heritabilities (H 2) based on clonal means ranged from moderately high to high (0.50–0.90) for the traits studied, with H 2 values varying over age. The H 2 estimates reflected greater environmental “noise” in the B1 than in the F2, presumably due to the greater proportion of maladaptive D alleles in those hybrids. In both families, sylleptic branch number and length, and leaf size on the terminal, showed strong genetic correlations with stem growth. The large divergence between the two original parents in the traits studied, combined with the high chromosome number in Populus (2n=38), makes this pedigree well suited for the estimation of the number of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) underlying quantitative variation by Wright's biometric method (1968). Variation in several traits was found to be under the control of surprisingly few major QTLs: 3–4 in 2nd-year height and diameter growth, a single QTL in stem diameter/height ratio.

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Communicated by P. M. A. Tigerstedt

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Wu, R., Stettler, R.F. Quantitative genetics of growth and development in Populus. I. A three-generation comparison of tree architecture during the first 2 years of growth. Theoret. Appl. Genetics 89, 1046–1054 (1994).

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Key words

  • Interspecific hybrid
  • Tree architecture
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Quantitative trait loci
  • Populus