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Genetic variation of microfibril angle and its relationship with solid wood and pulpwood traits in two progeny trials of Eucalyptus nitens in Tasmania

  • Manuel F. Rocha-Sepúlveda ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Dean Williams ORCID logo , Mario Vega ORCID logo , Peter A. Harrison ORCID logo , René E. Vaillancourt ORCID logo and Brad M. Potts ORCID logo
From the journal Holzforschung


Microfibril angle (MFA) is a key biological trait contributing to wood stiffness, which is a common breeding objective for solid wood products in many tree species. To explore its genetic architecture, area-weighted MFA was measured in two Eucalyptus nitens progeny trials in Tasmania, Australia, with common open-pollinated families. Radial strips were extracted from 823 trees in 131 families and MFA assessed using SilviScan-2®. Heritability, genotype-by-environment interaction and inter-trait genetic correlations were evaluated to examine the genetic variability and stability of MFA and its relationships with other solid wood and pulpwood selection traits. Significant family variation was found for MFA in both trials. There was no significant genotype-by-environment interaction and the across-site narrow-sense heritability was 0.27. MFA was genetically independent of basic density, growth, and tree form. However, MFA was strongly and favourable genetically correlated to acoustic wave velocity in standing trees, modulus of elasticity and kraft pulp yield (KPY). The present study has shown that genetic improvement of E. nitens for pulpwood selection traits is unlikely to have adversely affected MFA, and thus timber stiffness. Rather these results suggest the possibility that selection for increased KPY may have indirectly improved MFA favourably for solid wood products.

Corresponding author: Manuel F. Rocha-Sepúlveda, School of Natural Sciences and ARC Training Centre for Forest Value, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tas7001, Australia, E-mail:

Funding source: Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre

Award Identifier / Grant number: ICI150100004


We thank Dr. Bala Thumma for allowing the use of the unpublished SilviScan data obtained under the FWPA. We also acknowledge the use of the previously published data collected from the Southport trial as part of the FWPA Hottest 1000 project, and from the Tarraleah trial as part of Dr. David Blackburn’ PhD project under the Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry. These field trials were established by Drs. Peter Volker and Peter Kube when they were employed by Australian Newsprint Mills (now Norske Skog) and Forestry Tasmania (now Sustainable Timber Tasmania) respectively.

  1. Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: We thank the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre grant ICI150100004 for supporting this project.

  3. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest regarding this article.


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Received: 2020-08-16
Accepted: 2020-12-01
Published Online: 2021-01-08
Published in Print: 2021-08-26

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