Early selection in tree breeding requires a credible age-age correlation. Modelling height growth in provenance and progeny trials, we can predict age-age correlations suitable for use in operational breeding as described in this article.
Tree breeding involves early selection, which is an indirect selection using a genetic correlation. This study describes a procedure of predicting an age-age phenotypic correlation as a surrogate for a genetic correlation. Although the predicted correlations are based on white spruce (Picea glauca) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) data, they can be used in other coniferous species with similar mode of height growth. The aim of the study is to predict a correlation coefficient used to adjust breeding values at a measurement age to breeding values at a rotation age. This correlation is derived from the observed height growth trajectories of trees in progeny and provenance trials. Correlation prediction equations were developed using modelled height growth in provenance and progeny trials of lodgepole pine and white spruce. The time lag between successive tree ages was used as a correlation predictor variable. Correlations differed between spruce and pine but the differences narrowed as trees grew older. For example, a correlation between 20 and 100 years was 0.607 for spruce and 0.470 for pine, whereas that of 30 and 100 was 0.826 for spruce and 0.832 for pine. Based on the age-age correlation, the optimum selection age for a 100-year rotation age is 40–50 years. Parameters of the tree height growth function exhibited significant genetic variance and genotype × environment interaction. After the age of 40 years, age-age correlation for height may be less important for selection and genetic gain prediction than the correlation between height and diameter, which is declining with tree age.
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Rweyongeza DM 2016. A new approach to prediction of the age-age correlation for use in tree breeding. Ann. For. Sci.: 1-13. 10.1007/s13595-016-0570-5.