An Evaluation of Selection for Volume Growth in Loblolly Pine

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Total inside-bark volume is the most important selection criterion for productivity in tree breeding programs in the Southeastern U.S. Tree breeders typically estimate total inside-bark volume based on outside-bark diameter at breast height and total height without accounting for stem taper or bark thickness. To make a direct determination of total inside- and outside-bark volume, a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) open-pollinated family trial replicated with cultural treatments of weed control and fertilization was measured. This direct measurement was compared to typical volume estimates. In this trial, approximately 40 individuals from each of 25 open-pollinated first- and second-generation families were destructively sampled in the 13th growing season. Selection for volume using a combined-variable (diameter2 * height) equation was found to be highly effective for making volume gain. There was a high correlation between estimated and directly-measured total inside-bark volumes (0.99). Bark thickness and stem taper had low importance for stem volume selection. There was a positive genetic correlation between bark thickness and diameter at breast height (0.66). This indicates that selection for larger diameters may produce individuals with thicker bark, which may eventually affect total inside-bark volume estimates.

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