Mating dynamics of Scots pine in isolation tents
Funda T, Wennstrom U, Almqvist C, Gull BA, Wang XR

Seed orchards are forest tree production populations for supplying the forest industry with consistent and abundant seed crops of superior genetic quality. However, genetic quality can be severely affected by non-random mating among parents and the occurrence of background pollination. This study analyzed mating structure and background pollination in six large isolation tents established in a clonal Scots pine seed orchard in northern Sweden. The isolation tents were intended to form a physical barrier against background pollen and induce earlier flowering relative to the surrounding trees. We scored flowering phenology inside and outside the tents and tracked airborne pollen density inside and outside the seed orchard in three consecutive pollination seasons. We genotyped 5683 offspring collected from the tents and open controls using nine microsatellite loci, and assigned paternity using simple exclusion method. We found that tent trees shed pollen and exhibited maximum female receptivity approximately 1 week earlier than trees in open control. The majority of matings in tents (78.3 %) occurred at distances within two trees apart (about 5 m). Self-fertilization was relatively high (average 21.8 %) in tents without supplemental pollination (SP), but it was substantially reduced in tents with SP (average 7.7 %). Pollen contamination was low in open controls (4.8–7.1 %), and all tents remained entirely free of foreign pollen. Our study demonstrates that tent isolation is effective in blocking pollen immigration and in manipulating flowering phenology. When complimented with supplemental pollination, it could become a useful seed orchard management practice to optimize the gain and diversity of seed orchard crops.

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