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Phenotypic Variation In Growth And Biomass Distribution For Two Advanced-generation Pedigrees Of Hybrid Poplar

Stan D Wullschleger, T M Yin, S P DiFazio, T J Tschaplinski, L E Gunter, M F Davis, G A Tuskan

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To assess the genetic control of biomass distribution in trees, phenotypic variation in the distribution of dry mass to stems, branches, leaves, coarse roots, and fine roots was examined in two hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa Torr. & A. Gray (T) × Populus deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh. (D)) families grown under field conditions. Family 331 was an inbred F2(TD × TD) pedigree, whereas family 13 was an outbred backcross BC1(TD × D) pedigree. Fractional distribution of total whole-tree biomass to shoots and roots during their establishment year averaged (±SD) 0.62 ± 0.09 and 0.38 ± 0.09, respectively, across 247 genotypes in family 331, and 0.57 ± 0.06 and 0.43 ± 0.06, respectively, across 160 genotypes in family 13. In contrast, fractional distribution of total biomass in 2-year-old trees was 0.79 ± 0.04 to shoots and 0.21 ± 0.04 to roots. Allometric analysis indicated that as trees increased in age, biomass was preferentially distributed to stems and branches, whereas distribution to roots declined. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis for family 13 indicated 31 QTL (likelihood of odds >2.5) for traits measured. The percent phenotypic variation explained by any single QTL ranged from 7.5% to 18.3% and averaged 11.2% across all QTL. These results show that aboveground and belowground patterns of biomass distribution are under genetic control. This finding has wide-ranging implications for carbon sequestration, phytoremediation, and basic biological research in trees.