Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y081070

    The effect of contamination on performance of progeny from coastal Douglas-fir Seed Orchards
Project lead: Webber, Joe (ProSeed Consulting)
Contributing Authors: Webber, Joe E.; Stoehr, Michael U.
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
Coastal Douglas-fir seed orchards are located in southern, warmer climates which provide a natural inductive effect for improved flowering. Since all conifers are wind pollinated and the periods of reproductive development for indigenous stands and orchards overlap, non-orchard sources of pollen (contamination) can breed a significant number of female flowers (seed cones) in the orchard. Depending on the extent and magnitude of contamination, the Genetic Worth (weighted estimates of gamete contribution, see Woods 2005) of the seedlot will be reduced. This will lower the value of the seedlot and reduce future wood production. Contamination levels in Douglas-fir seed orchards have been estimated in the range of 42 to 60% (Adams et al. 1997; Slavov et al. 2005) in Oregon and 16% (Wheeler and Jech 1986) in Washington states. Since 50% of a seedlotís Genetic Worth (GW) is calculated from pollen contribution, contamination can result in a substantial reduction of the orchardís GW. For example, 50% contamination in a an orchard parent rated at a breeding values of 20%, would reduce its seedlotís GW to 15% with a potential loss of about 5% wood volume at harvest (or more if the contaminated seedlot results in maladapted planting stock for the orchard deployment zone). Pollen Monitoring is the current protocol (see Woods et al. 1996) for assessing the magnitude of pollen contamination by estimating the ratio of non-orchard pollen cloud density (regional monitoring) to orchard pollen cloud density (which includes regional pollen). In the past there have been considerable errors in pollen identification, sampling and counting. This became the focus of a three year FSP project (Y051110 to Y073110). Sources of error in monitoring pollen cloud density were identified and specific changes were adopted. These new sampling procedures have been in effect for the last two years and estimates of contamination from pollen monitoring have been within 5% of those determined from the more robust DNA paternity analyses. We now feel comfortable that pollen monitoring provides a reliable method for estimating the contribution of pollen contamination in coastal Douglas-fir seed orchards. However, we still do not know to what extent contaminate pollen will reduce progeny growth from high breeding value (BV) maritime orchard parents nor do we know if the progeny sired by contaminate pollen is adapted to the entire Douglas-fir maritime seed planning zone, especially on high elevation sites (800-900 m) where risk of late spring and early fall frosts are possible. Currently we arbitrarily assign a neutral value (0%) BV to southern Vancouver Island regional pollen contamination. This has replaced the previous value of -15% based on the performance of southern Vancouver Island sources in provenance trials. The adjustment of the contaminate pollen breeding value was based on a trial where Saanich peninsula sources of pollen (contamination) were crossed with parents from the sub-maritime (coastal/interior transition zone) and compared to progeny from within orchard pollen sources (Stoehr et al. 1994 and 2004). After 9 years, the progeny from Saanich peninsula pollen (contamination) compared to within orchard sources of pollen, showed no significant reduction in growth or effect on adaptive traits (frost damage) in a plantation near Pemberton and on a coastal site on the Saanich peninsula. The lack of any effect of contaminate pollen on growth of progeny from these orchard parents was not surprising since the BV of this orchard was near 0%. We do not expect the same response when contaminate pollen is crossed with high breeding value (20%) parents (clones). While the adjustment of the BV from -15% to 0% was not totally arbitrary, it was based on data that is applicable to the sub-maritime seed zone and not strictly applicable to the larger and certainly more economically important maritime seed zone. Accordingly, we are proposing to create a series of progeny sired by southern Vancouver Island pollen sources (contamination) on high BV maritime Douglas-fir seed-cone parents and compare their performance to progeny from high BV pollen parents (within orchard) on the same high BV seed-cone parents. At the time we harvest cones from these crosses, we will also collect open pollinated (OP) cones to determine the magnitude of pollen contamination for that year and compare their growth response (presumably less than the orchard x orchard crosses but greater than the contaminate x orchard crosses). For example, if the pure orchard progeny (orchard x orchard) grows 100 cm, the pure contaminate progeny (contaminate x orchard) grows 80 cm and the OP progeny grows 90 cm, then we know that contamination accounted for 10 cm growth loss. We will also determine the level of contamination using DNA paternity analyses which can then be used to estimate potential loss in growth of progeny and field verify this estimate from progeny performance in the plantations.
Related projects:  FSP_Y092070FSP_Y103070
Contact: Webber, Joe, (250) 537-8854,


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Updated August 16, 2010 

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