The overall goal of this PhD project is to develop methods for early flowering to increase gain over time in breeding, and for efficient seed production in seed orchards to make the genetically improved material available for forestry. Silver birch is considered as a species which might mitigate problems that have occurred in silviculture of coniferous species, and by that contribute to improvement of raw material production for the wood industry and for energy production.
A focus in this PhD project is to expand the understanding of flowering induction and seed production that have been identified as a limiting factor in breeding of silver birch and deployment of the improved materials into forestry. Early flowering in breeding of silver birch will also make the implementation of genomic selection even more powerful, (developed in project number 2) - the two projects will work closely together.
The early induction of flowering in young seedlings will allow shortening of the breeding cycles and speed up a breeding programme. With faster breeding cycles it will be possible to increase the genetic gain in wood production and quality in a shorter time. The quicker progress in breeding might decrease the gap in volume production between birch and Norway spruce which is currently an important reason why Norway spruce is more commonly selected for regeneration.
The studies of the flowering properties (timing, intensity, temporal and geographical variability) and seed production will give information that facilitate production of seeds which is necessary for the successful deployment of plant material from breeding in forest plantations. Currently, seed production in seed orchards is insufficient due to poor recognition of flowering variability both in natural and in breeding populations and lack of consideration of such variables in planning of seed orchards.
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