Current issue: 56(4)
Under compilation: 57(1)
Investing in planting genetically improved silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) in Swedish plantations requires understanding how birch stands will develop over their entire rotation. Previous studies have indicated relatively low production of birch compared to Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.). This could result from using unrepresentative basic data, collected from unimproved, naturally-regenerated birch (Betula spp.) growing on inventory plots often located in coniferous stands. The objective of this study was to develop a basal area development function of improved silver birch and evaluate production over a full rotation period. We used data from 52 experiments including planted silver birch of different genetic breeding levels in southern and central Sweden. The experimental plots were established on fertile forest sites and on former agricultural lands, and were managed with different numbers of thinnings and basal area removal regimes. The model best describing total stand basal area development was a dynamic equation derived from the Korf base model. The analysis of the realized gain trial for birch showed a good stability of the early calculated relative differences in basal area between tested genotypes over time. Thus, the relative difference in basal area might be with cautious used as representation of the realized genetic gain. On average forest sites in southern Sweden, improved and planted silver birch could produce between 6–10.5 m3 ha–1 year–1, while on fertile agriculture land the average productivity might be higher, especially with material coming from the improvement program. The performed analysis provided a first step toward predicting the effects of genetic improvement on total volume production and profitability of silver birch. However, more experiments are needed to set up the relative differences between different improved material.
Genetically improved Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) are extensively used in operational Swedish forestry plantations. However, relatively little is known about the stem slenderness (height-diameter ratio) of genetically improved material. Thus, in this study we investigated effects of plus-tree selection on stem slenderness of Norway spruce and Scots pine in Sweden by evaluating both the plus-tree selection and a large number of progeny trials. Species-specific models for predicting the height-diameter ratio were estimated using regression and mixed model approach. Our results show that phenotypic plus-tree selection promoted less slender Norway spruce trees and more slender Scots pine trees compared to neighboring trees. Similar results were also found for the progeny trials which indicated that genetics played a prominent role in the phenotypic appearance. Compared to the progeny of neighboring trees, Norway spruce plus-tree progenies had a 5.3% lower height-diameter ratio, while Scots pine plus-tree progenies had a 1.5% greater height-diameter ratio. The narrow sense heritability for height-diameter ratio was 0.19 for Norway spruce and 0.11 for Scots pine, indicating that it is possible to modify the height-diameter ratio by breeding. Correlation coefficients between breeding values for height-diameter ratio and diameter were negative for Scots pine (–0.71) and Norway spruce (–0.85), indicating that selection for diameter only would result in less slender stems of both species. Similar correlations were also found between breeding values for height-diameter ratio and height of Scots pine (–0.34) and Norway spruce (–0.74).