Maternal effects should be considered in the establishment of forestry plantations
María Vivas, Michael J.Wingfield, Bernard Slippers
Breeding strategies for plants focus on the genetic influence on their
phenotypes. However, the phenotype is not only the outcome of the
genotype or the environmental conditions under which plants grow. It is
important to also recognise that the maternal environment has a
significant effect on the phenotype of the offspring. These maternal
effects represent a transgenerational form of phenotypic plasticity,
transmitted to the progeny without modifications in the DNA sequence.
These can influence the development, disease and pest resistance, and
fitness of the offspring and subsequent development of the mature plant.
In this review, we define and synthesize current understanding of
maternal effects in plant reproduction and discuss evidence for the role
of these effects in plants and more specifically in trees utilised for
plantation forestry. We highlight the implications of the maternal
environment in the management of forestry seed orchards and discuss
approaches to study maternal effects in order to enhance the
productivity of forestry plantations.
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