Ecological Aspects In Tree Breeding

Cell and tissue cultures adopted to tree breeding may greatly enhance genetic gains in characters such as wood quality (fiber length, lignin composition, specific gravity, bole straightness, crown form and branchiness, etc.) and wood volume (springwood/latewood ratio, growth initiation and cessation, nutrient uptake, drought and cold tolerance, etc.). Manipulation of wood quality and volume, all included in final yield, may, however, be contradictory to tree adaptation in a certain climate; additional yield may be at the cost of tree adaptation and fitness. During the past 40 years the world has experienced a considerable reduction of genetic diversity in agroecosystems with the advent of the "green revolution" with its high-yielding cultivars in rice, wheat, and maize, the three outstanding agricultural staple crops. Its consequences have been duly registered in pest and disease outbreaks.

Pressures on world forestry, particularly in developing countries that suffer shortages of fuelwood and where high population density causes forests to be turned into agriculture, there is a loss of tropical forests at about 15 million hectares per annum, 0.8% of the total tropical forest area (4). In developed industrial countries, increasing forest area is converted into plantation forestry, with a loss of natural forest biodiversity (stand variation in age classes and species mixtures). Forests are replaced by even-aged monocultures, easy to manage and high in production. Thus, trees have been converted to "cultivated plants." This is where we select species, seed sources, and tree breeding material and ultimately select clones for high production. It is here that transgenic trees may become cloned for mass production.

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