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Genetic parameter estimates informed by a marker-based pedigree: a case study with Eucalyptus cladocalyx in southern Australia


Analysis of stem diameter, height and axis persistence (AP) in a first-generation Eucalyptus cladocalyx breeding population comprising 137 wild and land-race families planted at 11 sites in southern Australia revealed significant genetic variation among subpopulations and among families within subpopulations. Alternative analyses were carried out using individual-tree mixed models that (i) assumed the trees within families were half-siblings (HS) and (ii) used molecular marker-based information to account for highly heterogeneous relatedness and inbreeding depression among families resulting from mixed mating (MM). For certain site and trait combinations, the HS models would not converge, as estimates of additive variance exceeded the total phenotypic variance, demonstrating the fundamental unsuitability of the HS assumption for this breeding population. Where HS models converged, moderate to very high heritability estimates resulted for growth traits. The MM assumption resulted in re-ranking of individual-tree breeding values and markedly lower estimates of narrow-sense heritability for all trait-site combinations. In some cases, however, heritability remained moderate to high, probably reflecting unquantified dominance variance in some highly inbred subpopulations. Genotype-by-environment interaction was significant overall due to reactivity of genotypes on a few sites, with type-B correlations between pairs of sites ranging from 0.06 to 0.99. Generally, families from the Australian land race were found to perform particularly well for both growth and AP traits. Some wild families were found to be vigorous, despite significant inbreeding. The study has demonstrated that traditional models assuming non-relatedness and/or homogeneous inbreeding in first-generation eucalypt breeding populations can be significantly improved upon by flexible mixed models that integrate marker-based data.

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The set of field trials reported here were established by members of the Australian Low Rainfall Tree Improvement Group. We would like to thank the teams of people who established and managed the trials led by Trevor Butcher and Andrew Callister in WA, Tim Jackson and Des Stackpole in Victoria, Hans Porada in NSW and Mick Underdown and Bob Boardman in South Australia. We would also like to thank Chris Harwood, who was instrumental in establishing the breeding programme for E. cladocalyx and for helpful comments on a draft of the manuscript.

Data archiving

Phenotypic data will be archived at the CSIRO Data Portal Sequence data have been archived at NCBI GenBank.

Author information

Correspondence to David Bush.

Additional information

Communicated by R. Burdon

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Bush, D., Kain, D., Kanowski, P. et al. Genetic parameter estimates informed by a marker-based pedigree: a case study with Eucalyptus cladocalyx in southern Australia. Tree Genetics & Genomes 11, 798 (2015).

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  • Eucalyptus
  • Inbreeding depression
  • Mixed mating