Genetic and environmental factors affecting rooting in Eucalyptus grandis X Eucalyptus longirostrata hybrid cuttings.
In clonal deployment programmes of plantation species, there is frequently the need to deploy Eucalyptus species and interspecific hybrids as rooted cuttings. However, the rooting ability of a particular species or hybrid is a major, and usually limiting, factor affecting the economics of commercial deployment. There is also significant between-species and between-family variation for this trait. Recently, Eucalyptus longirostrata was crossed with E. grandis in an effort to combine its desirable wood properties, drought tolerance and disease resistance with the latter's vigorous growth. Should progeny with these suitable characteristics be identified, there is the possibility of extending plantations to more marginal areas and increasing the quality and volume from existing plantations. An investigation was undertaken to study the rooting ability of E. grandis x E. longirostrata hybrid cuttings. The plant material was sourced from five families in seedling derived hedges at two nurseries, as well as five families coppiced from an unreplicated progeny trial planted in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. Their rooting ability was assessed by determining the percentage of cuttings that developed roots using two different rooting methods. The variation between and within families and clones is presented. The study shows that root strike is under moderate genetic control, with an estimate of broad-sense rooting heritability of 0.197 (S.E. = 0.070). The two nurseries used in this study used different rooting technologies, with cuttings rooted either in media (traditional method) or in air (aeroponically). The aeroponics technology was highly significantly (p<0.0001) superior, in terms of rooting success. Rooting was also highly significantly affected (p<0.0001) by the temperature at the time of cutting. Rooting success of cuttings from seedling-derived parental hedges was similar to cuttings from coppiced stumps. The consequences of the low repeatability of measurements of rooting ability, 0.187 (S.E. 0.067) by clone and 0.340 (S.E. 0.072) by ramet, which was influenced by the response to age of material and nursery conditions, is discussed. This study demonstrated that large improvements in rooting success can be made by the optimization of rooting protocols and selecting for superior genotypes, as long as the performances of genotypes are accurately assessed.
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