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Acoustic velocity, collapse, extractives, genetic gain, heartwood, natural durability, tree breeding, white stringybark
Background: Eucalyptus globoidea Blakely produces ground-durable (Class 2) and stiff wood and has the potential to be grown in New Zealand to supply high-value environmentally-friendly timber for use as posts in the agricultural sector and stiff veneers for the LVL industry. The New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative (NZDFI) has established a breeding programme for this species. The objective of this study was to identify trees with superior wood properties for commercial propagation enabling the establishment of a domestic plantation resource of ground-durable timber.
Methods: The genetic variation in wood properties at mid-rotation age (8-year-old) of 141 E. globoidea families was assessed for the following traits: heartwood diameter, diameter under bark at ~0.5 m height, combined sapwood diameter, heartwood collapse, sapwood collapse, standing tree acoustic velocity and extractive content in the heartwood. Families were ranked and genotypes with large heartwood diameter, high extractive content and stiffness as well as low collapse were identified.
Results: Heartwood diameter (h2 = 0.51) and extractive content (h2 = 1.16) showed good heritability, which in combination with high variation are promising traits for a breeding programme. The high heritability for extractive content indicated a closer relatedness within the population than the assumption of unrelated families of half-siblings. The unfavourable correlation between the heartwood diameter and extractive content (genetic correlation (rg) = −0.45) indicated that a compromise is required for simultaneous improvement of both traits. Heritability estimates for heartwood collapse (h2 = 0.30) and acoustic velocity (h2 = 0.36) were moderate.
Conclusions: Genetic selection for wood quality traits of E. globoidea is practically feasible. Superior individuals with above average performance for multiple traits were present in the breeding populations, however, this was dependent on the intended end use of the timber.