Sapling and coppice biomass heritabilities and potential gains from Eucalyptus polybractea progeny trials
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Eucalyptus polybractea has been planted as a short-rotation coppice crop for bioenergy in Western Australia. Historical breeding selections were based on sapling biomass and despite a long history as a coppice crop, the genetic parameters of coppicing are unknown. Here, we assessed sapling biomass at ages 3 and 6 from three progeny trials across southern Australia. After the second sapling assessment, all trees were harvested. Coppice biomass was assessed 3.5 years later. Mortality following harvest was between 1 and 2%. Additive genetic variance for the 6-sapling estimate at one site was not significant. Sapling heritabilities were between 0.06 and 0.36 at 3 years, and 0.18 and 0.20 at 6 years. The heritability for the coppice biomass was between 0.07 and 0.17. Within-site genetic and phenotypic correlations were strong between all biomass assessments. Cross-site correlations were not different from unity. Selections based on net breeding values revealed positive gains in sapling and coppice biomass. Lower or negative gains were estimated if 3-year sapling selections were applied to the coppice assessments (−7.1% to 3.4%) with useful families culled. Positive gains were obtained if 6-year sapling selections were applied to the coppice assessment (6.4% to 9.3%) but these were lower than those obtained by applying coppice selections to the coppice assessment (8.4% to 14.8%). Removal of poor performing families and families that displayed fast sapling growth rates but under-performed as coppice will benefit potential coppice production. These results indicate that selections should be made using coppice data.
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