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Stiffness and checking of Eucalyptus nitens sawn boards: genetic variation and potential for genetic improvement

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A trial was undertaken to assess the extent to which variation in sawn-board quality traits of plantation-grown Eucalyptus nitens is under genetic control and amenable to genetic improvement. Five hundred and sixty trees from 129 families and three central Victorian races were sampled from an open-pollinated progeny trial in Tasmania, Australia. Acoustic wave velocity (AWV) was assessed on standing trees and sawlogs. Wedges from disks extracted from sawlogs were assessed for basic density and checking. Processed boards from 496 of the trees were assessed for board stiffness (static modulus of elasticity, MOE), and internal and surface checking. Genetic differences among races were significant for AWV and MOE traits. The Southern race had the highest mean values for these traits. Significant additive genetic variation within races was observed in all traits, demonstrating that the quality of plantation-grown E. nitens boards could be improved through breeding. Estimated narrow-sense heritabilities were 0.85 for standing-tree AWV, 0.71 for log AWV, 0.37 for board MOE, and ranged from 0.20 to 0.52 for checking traits. A strongly positive genetic correlation (r g = 1.05) was observed between standing-tree AWV and board MOE, indicating that AWV could be used as a selection trait to improve E. nitens board stiffness. The genetic correlation between basic density and board MOE was also positive (r g = 0.62). However, a significant and adverse genetic correlation (r g = 0.61) was identified between basic density and surface check length. Wood stiffness and checking traits were more-or-less genetically independent, and genetic correlations between surface and internal checking were positive but only moderate (r g = 0.48–0.52).

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The study was funded and carried out by the Cooperative Research Center for Forestry. We acknowledge substantial in-kind assistance from Forest Enterprises Australia Ltd (FEA) and Forestry Tasmania. We thank Keith Churchill, David Page, and Maria Ottenschlaeger (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems) for their assistance and technical support.

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The authors declare that the experiments outlined in this paper comply with the current laws of Australia, the country in which they were performed.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to David Blackburn.

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Communicated by R. Burdon

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Blackburn, D., Hamilton, M., Harwood, C. et al. Stiffness and checking of Eucalyptus nitens sawn boards: genetic variation and potential for genetic improvement. Tree Genetics & Genomes 6, 757–765 (2010).

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