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Reproductive and molecular biology of Eucalyptus marginata Donn ex Smith

Wheeler, Margaret (2004) Reproductive and molecular biology of Eucalyptus marginata Donn ex Smith. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examined aspects of the reproductive and molecular biology of Eucalyptus marginata (jarrah). The aims were to develop protocols for controlled pollination, that could be used in clonal orchard trees to breed jarrah seedlings that have a known genetic resistance to Phytophthora cinnamomi (dieback), for use in rehabilitation after mining and logging. An intimate knowledge of the breeding biology of jarrah was necessary to achieve this aim. The project also aimed to increase knowledge of the genetic diversity and structure of jarrah, in order to make informed decisions regarding the collection of material to be used for clonal propagation. Previous research has had little success in producing viable seed from any controlled pollinations, but clonal material resistant to P. cinnamomi has been produced using tissue culture. The question posed in this thesis was 'Can we improve breeding and propagation techniques of jarrah?'

Techniques were developed for testing of in vitro pollen viability and pollen storage, pollination and fertilisation success after controlled pollinations, including determination of stigma receptivity and development of bud isolation techniques using alfoil. The variation in female fertility between genotypes was examined. The use of paclobutrazol was explored as a method of increasing the level of viable seed production in clonal orchard trees. The use of fertiliser as well as the growth retardant was also explored to see if it increased the level of seed production even more. Genetic diversity, genetic differentiation and phylogeny within Eucalyptus marginata were examined using nuclear and chloroplast DNA analysis with Restricted Fragment Length Polymorphisms.

While it was first thought that the fertilisation rate was quite low, it was confirmed that the fertilisation rate is similar to other eucalypt species. The zygote abortion rate was quite high in one clone, but one wild tree had a similar seed production rate to other eucalypt species. The zygote and endosperm appeared to be different in the clone and the wild tree observed. The level of seed production was examined in clones and wild trees and it was found that the level was often quite low, particularly in the clones (0 - 13% in clones, 0 - 18% in wild trees) in comparison with other Eucalyptus species, and varied between genotypes. The use of a growth retardant such as paclobutrazol may increase the production of viable seed, if it is applied during autumn. The results were inconclusive for the fertiliser/paclobutrazol experiment, since the paclobutrazol was applied during spring which was the worst time of year for increasing seed production. There were differences between genotypes in reaction to both the paclobutrazol and the fertiliser/paclobutrazol. Genetic diversity was moderate in comparison with other Eucalyptus species, and there was a low level of genetic differentiation between populations in the nuclear genome. No differentiation was observed between the morphologically recognised subspecies in the nuclear genome, but differentiation between the populations on the Swan Coastal Plain and populations on the Darling Plateau was seen in the chloroplast genome, indicating that there was historical separation of these two areas.

The conclusions arising from this work are that while controlled pollinations are possible in Eucalyptus marginata the clones that were used in these experiments have often behaved differently to the wild trees in the time of anthesis and levels of viable seed production, and in one clone (5J119) the zygote and endosperm nuclei appeared to be very different to the zygote and endosperm nuclei of a wild tree. Further investigation is necessary to see if these differences are related to the low level of seed production observed in the clonal populations. Paclobutrazol may be worth exploring further as a means of increasing seed production. Material to be used for rehabilitation and seed orchards can be collected from a wide area in the main distribution of the species, although trees on the Swan Coastal Plain are distinct from the trees in the main forest area in the chloroplast genome.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Supervisor(s): McComb, Jen, Byrne, M., Colquhoun, Ian and Stukely, M.
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