Estimating heritability of disease resistance and factors that contribute to long-term survival in butternut (Juglans cinerea L.)

  • Nicholas R. LaBonteEmail author
  • Michael E. Ostry
  • Amy Ross-Davis
  • Keith E. Woeste
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Breeding


For most wild species affected by exotic pests or pathogens, the relative importance of heritable genetic differences in determining apparent variation in disease resistance is unknown. This is true in particular for butternut, a North American hardwood affected by butternut canker disease and undergoing demographic contraction. Little is known about site effects on butternut decline, in part because long-term monitoring data are lacking. We collected detailed disease phenotypes and multilocus microsatellite genotypes for all surviving individuals in a large natural population of butternut in 2003 (n = 302) and 2012 (n = 113). Two analytical methods, correlations between pairwise phenotypic similarity and pairwise relatedness, and estimation of among-family variance, both indicated weak heritability of disease-related traits and no heritability for overall tree health in the population. Additionally, an analysis of spatial data collected in 2001 (n = 341) and 2012 (n = 113) demonstrated that drier, upland sites contribute to increased likelihood of survival. We conclude that genetic differences among wild butternut individuals contributed little to observed variance in survival over 10 years but fine-scale site differences were useful predictors of butternut mortality.


Ophiognomonia clavigignenti-juglandacearum Butternut canker disease Heritability Forest genetics Butternut 



The authors wish to thank Dwight Slocum for access to the butternuts at SLOW. Thanks also to Amy Miller and James Jacobs for the help in collecting leaf samples, and Megan Simmons for the help in extracting DNA and conducting PCR, and the staff of the Purdue Genomics Core for their advice and assistance. We would also like to thank J.S. Stanovick for the statistical support. The work presented in this paper was partially funded by the USDA NIFA Grant 104355 Partnership for Research and Education in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Purdue. We thank all the sponsors of the Partnership for their generosity. Mention of a trademark, proprietary product, or vendor does not constitute a guarantee or warranty of the product by the US Department of Agriculture and does not imply its approval to the exclusion of other products or vendors that also may be suitable.

Data archiving statement

Microsatellite genotypes for SLOW 2003, SLOW 2012, KMSF, and GSMNP butternuts are archived at TreeGenes under accession number TGDR046. The two microsatellite loci used in this project and not previously published (JC092 and JC242) are archived at GenBank under the accession codes KR119067 and KR119068, respectively. Canker disease phenotypes and GPS coordinates of trees may be requested for scientific purposes from the corresponding author.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas R. LaBonte
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael E. Ostry
    • 2
  • Amy Ross-Davis
    • 3
  • Keith E. Woeste
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Northern Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceSt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.RMRS Forestry Sciences LaboratoryUSDA Forest ServiceMoscowUSA
  4. 4.Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center at Purdue University, Northern Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceWest LafayetteUSA

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