Published Online - 16 Jan 2008.
A challenge for tree breeders and wood quality researchers of today is to respond appropriately to a complex environment demanding more productivity, higher quality, and a quicker adaptation of their crops to rapid changes. This is mirrored in the typical modern commodity trends of the need for increasing quality, decreasing costs, and of increasing rate of change of the markets, surrounding technologies, and the environment. The result of such demands is that tree breeders are faced with a growing shopping list" of traits for which to breed, and in a shorter time period. This is a perilous situation, because, as the list of selection criteria increases, so too does the size of the breeding effort increase, or alternatively, the breeder may have to reduce the level of improvement in the traits. This problem is accentuated in the clonal situation, where the market expects all criteria to be met in a single genotype. In a recent study, with the selection target of only four traits, one tree met all criteria in a trial of 475. In another exercise, zero trees were found to be in the top 20% for all four selection traits in 773 trees. Further to these traits, there was a need to select for rooting ability and resistance to various diseases. This highlights the need to model and understand the impact of multi-trait selection on clonal breeding strategies. Future breeding developments are likely to: (1) limit selection traits to those anticipated to be required regardless of changing needs, and weight them in consideration of the associated risks of changing needs; (2) design strategies and adopt technologies which will enable more effective selection of multiple traits; and (3) adopt strategies which will allow effective response to the rapidly changing market, technological, and natural environments. Challenges for wood specialists in response to the above scenarios may be to: (1) identify a few "generic" traits, likely to robustly address a spectrum of possible needs of the future; (2) provide cost-effective early screening techniques (biotechnology may compete here); and (3) develop technologies which will enable effective deployment (e.g., matching the predicted phenotype to the site). The objective is to match the realised phenotype (as a result of genetic and environmental influences) to the processing needs"