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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Non-Destructive Evaluation of Downy and Silver Birch Wood Quality and Stem Features from a Progeny Trial in Southern Sweden

Jones, Grace; Liziniewicz, Mateusz; Lindeberg, Johan; Adamopoulos, Stergios


This study investigated whether improved downy birch could perform as well as improved silver birch, and whether there was sufficient genetic variation and control for non-destructive testing (NDT) values to include them as selection traits in breeding programs. NDT tools were applied to a 15-year-old downy birch family trial intermixed with improved silver birch. Average diameters, fissured bark height, and grain angle were higher for silver than downy birch. The genetic analysis for downy birch provided estimates of narrow-sense heritability (h2) for acoustic velocity and Pilodyn penetration depth that were above 0.3 but had low genetic variation. Grain angle had relatively high genetic variability (18%) and an h2 of 0.20. A subsample of 49 trees had 4 mm cores x-rayed for wood density estimates, and 34 stems had 12 mm cores macerated for cell measurements. t-tests revealed that average wood density and cell measurements were not significantly different between species. For silver and downy birch, fiber length and vessel length increased between inner and outer measurement positions, and fiber length was reasonably correlated with acoustic velocity. Silver birch tended to have denser and stiffer wood, while downy birch had less rough bark and straighter grain, and these results are in agreement with existing knowledge. The h2 values were similar to those observed in other birch species and indicate there is potential to breed for improved wood density and grain angle in downy birch.


acoustic velocity; cell dimensions; densitometry; heritability; genetic variability; grain angle

Published in

2023, Volume: 14, number: 10, article number: 2031