The increasing ecological and economical importance of Populus species and hybrids has stimulated research into the investigation of the natural variation of the species and the estimation of the extent of genetic control over its wood quality traits for traditional forestry activities as well as the emerging bioenergy sector. A realized kinship matrix based on informative, high-density, biallelic single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genetic markers was constructed to estimate trait variance components, heritabilities, and genetic and phenotypic correlations. Seventeen traits related to wood chemistry and ultrastructure were examined in 334 9-yr-old Populus trichocarpa grown in a common-garden plot representing populations spanning the latitudinal range 44° to 58.6°. In these individuals, 9342 SNPs that conformed to Hardy-Weinberg expectations were employed to assess the genomic pair-wise kinship to estimate narrow-sense heritabilities and genetic correlations among traits. The range-wide phenotypic variation in all traits was substantial and several trait heritabilities were > 0.6. In total, 61 significant genetic and phenotypic correlations and a network of highly interrelated traits were identified. The high trait variation, the evidence for moderate to high heritabilities and the identification of advantageous trait combinations of industrially important characteristics should aid in providing the foundation for the enhancement of poplar tree breeding strategies for modern industrial use.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.