Genetic Variation of Spring Frost Damage in 3-year-old Fraser Fir Christmas Tree Plantations

in HortScience

A series of open-pollinated progeny tests of Fraser fir [Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir.] was analyzed to determine genetic variation of spring frost damage to the terminal leader and lateral branches after a late season frost in May of the third year in the field. The level of spring frost damage was also compared with bud flush dates that had been measured in the nursery before field planting. Seed sources differed significantly for lateral branch frost damage, and families within source differed significantly for both terminal leader and lateral branch frost damage. Greater terminal and lateral frost damage were significantly associated with greater height for all years. As expected, parent elevation was negatively associated with progeny height. Less lateral frost damage was also associated with later terminal and lateral bud flush dates in the nursery. In addition, higher parent elevation was associated with later lateral bud flush dates of progeny in the nursery. Terminal and lateral bud flush dates in the nursery showed high individual tree within-population heritability values of 0.85 and 0.73, respectively. Similar heritability values for the frost damage measurements were low, 0.045 for terminal leader damage and 0.14 for lateral branch damage. Many of the fast-growing families quickly made up for any loss of height from frost damage so that frost damage should not greatly affect the rotation length.

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