Genetic variation in resistance of Norway spruce seedlings to damage by the pine weevil Hylobius abietis
TREE GENETICS & GENOMES 2017, 13 (5)
Zas R, Bjorklund N, Sampedro L, Hellqvist C, Karlsson B, Jansson S, Nordlander G

Abstract
Regeneration of northern conifer forests is commonly performed by reforestation with genetically improved materials obtained from long-term breeding programs focused on productivity and timber quality. Sanitary threats can, however, compromise the realization of the expected genetic gain. Including pest resistance traits in the breeding programs may contribute to a sustainable protection. Here we quantified the variation in different components of resistance of Norway spruce to its main pest, the pine weevil Hylobius abietis. We followed insect damage in two large progeny trials (52 open-pollinated families with 100–200 individuals per family and trial) naturally infested by the pine weevil. Pine weevils damaged between 17 and 48% of the planted seedlings depending on the trial and year, and mortality due to weevil damage was up to 11.4%. The results indicate significant genetic variation in resistance to the pine weevil, and importantly, the variation was highly consistent across trials irrespective of contrasting incidence levels. Individual heritability estimates for the different components of seedling resistance were consistently low, but family heritabilities were moderate (0.53 to 0.81). While forward selections and breeding for higher resistance seem not feasible, backwards selections of the best parent trees emerge as a putative alternative to reduce weevil damage. A positive genetic correlation between early growth potential and probability of being attacked by the weevil was also observed, but the relationship was weak and appeared only in one of the trials. Overall, results presented here open the door to a new attractive way for reducing damage caused by this harmful pest.

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