Irena Fundová successfully defended her PhD thesis at SLUIrena Fundová successfully defended her PhD thesis at SLU (photo: Sonali Ranade)

[2020-04-29] It is easy to measure the height or the stem diameter of a tree. But how can you get a clue about the quality of the wood without cutting down the tree? Irena Fundová, PhD student in Harry Wu’s group at UPSC, tested in her PhD thesis different methods to estimate the wood quality of Scots pine without harming the tree. Based on her results, she gives advices on the applicability of the tested methods and suggests a breeding strategy to improve growth, fibre and wood quality of Scots pine at the same time. Irena Fundová has successfully defended her PhD thesis on Friday, the 24th of April in P-O Bäckströms sal at SLU in Umeå.

What aroused your interest in your PhD project?

I wanted to continue with research on wood quality in forest trees that I started already at the University of British Columbia in Canada. I was particularly interested in applied research that would be as practical as possible for forestry and wood processing industries.

Did the fact that the PhD project was part of the industrial graduate school, that is a collaboration project between the UPSC Centre for Forest Biotechnology and its industrial partners, influence your decision?

Yes, it was important for me. I viewed it as a bridge between university science and industrial application. I hope that my thesis will be useful for my host company (Skogforsk).

What was most fascinating during your PhD?

I really enjoyed fieldwork. I travelled all over Sweden and visited many remote places. Sometimes we had to stay in a tent as there was no accommodation nearby. We met a lot of wildlife including a bear. I also had the opportunity to visit USA, Brazil and China and see their forest tree improvement programs. It was a great experience for me.

What was the most disappointing experience you had during your PhD?

The first year of my PhD was very difficult because I had no data. But then we shifted the direction a little bit, got enough funding through several research grants and my work started to progress.

What is the major outcome from your thesis? Can you provide practical information or tips for forestry and wood processing industries?

I tested the suitability of various methods for rapid and non destructive assessment of wood quality traits that are important for construction, pulp & paper and bioenergy industries. I concluded that 1- the resistograph, a tool based on drilling resistance, is suitable for non-destructive wood density assessment, 2- standing-tree acoustic velocity provides a good estimate of sawn-board stiffness and strength, 3- grain angle measured under bark of standing trees well predicts sawn-board twisting and crooking, and 4- Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy is suitable for non-destructive assessment of the chemical composition of wood in Scots pine. Furthermore, I evaluated the potential of growth and wood quality traits for simultaneous genetic improvement through recurrent selective breeding.

What are your plans for the future?

I have got several job offers (although none of them is from Sweden) but it is hard to make any plans during the current coronavirus pandemic. Before the situation clears off, I would like to process the tons of data I have generated during my studies that I could not include in my thesis.

Irena Fundová was student of the industrial graduate student Research School of Forest Genetics, Biotechnology and Breeding at UPSC. She performed her PhD studies in close collaboration with Skogforsk, the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden.

About the public defence:

The public defence took place on Friday, 24th of April at SLU Umeå. Faculty opponent was Philippe Rozenberg from the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE), Val de Loire, France. Irena Fundová's supervisor is Prof. Harry Xiaming Wu. The dissertation was live broadcasted on

Title of the thesis: Quantitative Genetics of Wood Quality Traits in Scots Pine

Link to the thesis:

For more information, please contact:

Irena Fundová
Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Umeå Plant Science Centre
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

One of Irena Fundová's trial plots - a Scots pine progeny test that is used for breeding (photo: Irena Fundová)One of Irena Fundová's trial plots - a Scots pine progeny test that is used for breeding (photo: Irena Fundová)Irena Fundová measuring acoustic velocity on a standing Scots pine tree (photo: xxx)Irena Fundová measuring acoustic velocity on a standing Scots pine tree (photo: Tomáš Funda)
Scots pine logs in a sawmill - Irena Fundová used logs as reference to assess wood quality in standing trees (photo: Irena Fundová)Scots pine logs in a sawmill (photo: Irena Fundová)The final product - sawn boards from Scots pine (photo: Irena Fundová)The final product - sawn boards from Scots pine (photo: Irena Fundová)