, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 1401–1411 | Cite as

Genetic by environment interactions of two North American Salix species assessed for coppice yield and components of growth on three sites of varying quality

  • A. MosselerEmail author
  • J. E. Major
  • M. Labrecque
Original Paper


Key message

Field testing of different willow species, and promising genotypes within a species, can maximize biomass yield and quality traits due to strong genotype by environment interactions.


Coppice yield and components of growth were quantified in eight clones of two widely distributed North American willows, Salix discolor (DIS) and S. eriocephala (ERI), in common-garden field tests on three sites of varying quality. Both species and clones within species varied significantly across different sites and interacted with site for plant yield and components of growth traits. At the species level, ERI was significantly more productive than DIS on the two most productive sites (85 and 57 % greater, respectively), but on the poorest site, a shale coal mine overburden, species ranking was reversed, with DIS showing a 60 % greater biomass yield than ERI. These sites had similar mean temperature, growing degree days, and seasonal precipitation. Site quality differences were thus most probably driven by soil nutrients, physical traits, and water-holding capacity quantified by 13 soil properties, 12 of which were significantly different and showed fairly consistent ranking among sites. At the clonal level, growth trends and differences were mostly consistent among clones across the three test sites, with the exception of one clone of DIS and to a lesser extent a clone of ERI, which showed abnormally strong clone by site interaction for specific growth traits. Productivity reached as high as 6.0 kg green mass in 2-year-old coppices for a clone from each of DIS and ERI on the most productive site. The strong expression of genetic by environment interactions at both the species and clonal levels suggests that biomass production can be optimized by taking advantage of such interactions and highlights the need for testing not only different species, but also a number of clones within a species before selecting clones for biomass production on different site types. Our results highlight variation in coppice form and the potential for genetic selection both among and within species.


Willows Species and clone by site interaction Components of growth traits Site quality Coppice yield 


Author contribution statement

Alex Mosseler: experimental design, implementation, data collection, data analysis and write-up John Major: data analysis and write-up Michel Labrecque: data analysis and write-up.


We are grateful to Moira Campbell, Ted Cormier, John Malcolm, Joseph Mosseler, Matthew Mosseler, Don Ostaff, Jean Teodorescu, and Peter Tucker for their assistance in collection of material from natural populations, establishment of common-garden tests, and data collection from these common gardens. We also thank the Montreal Botanical Garden, Michele Coleman with Mine Restoration Inc. (a subsidiary of NB Power), and Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service for providing growing space for the common-garden tests described here, and to Jim Estey of the Laboratory for Forest Soils and Environmental Quality at the University of New Brunswick for analysis of soil samples from the sites described here.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources Canada 2014 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service—Atlantic Forestry CentreFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Biodiversity CentreInstitut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV)MontrealCanada

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