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Genetic evaluation of Prosopis alba (algarrobo) in Argentina for cloning elite trees

Felker, P., Lopez, C., Soulier, C., Ochoa, J., Abdala, R., Ewens, M.
Agroforestry systems 2001 v.53 no.1 pp. 65-76
Prosopis alba, Prosopis pallida, agroforestry, biomass production, clones, elite trees, equations, flavor, fuelwood, furniture, genetic improvement, genetic variation, heritability, lumber, nitrogen-fixing trees, pods, progeny, provenance, rootstocks, scions, semiarid zones, taste, tree growth, Argentina
Algarrobo (Prosopis alba) is an important nitrogen-fixing tree adapted to the semiarid regions of northwestern Argentina. The tree provides fuelwood and dimensionally stable lumber for flooring and furniture; its pods that have a high sugar content are consumed by livestock and humans. P. alba has been one of the most heavily harvested species. This paper reports on the evaluation of a nine-year-old Prosopis alba progeny trial containing 57 half-sibling families of eight provenances in northwestern Argentina (of the 1,596 trees planted, 1,289 survived in 1999). Considering the multiple uses of P. alba, the selection criteria included: total biomass production (from basal diameter using regression equations), height, rate of pod production, and pod sensory characteristics. The family-narrow-sense-heritability was 0.487 for height. 0.548 for biomass production, and 0.244 for pod production. In 1998, 12 of the 1,289 trees were more than 4 m tall and had more than 1.75 kg pods per tree; and their pods had a sweet or very sweet non-astringent taste. Scions from these 12 trees were successfully grafted onto unselected P. alba rootstock. These are currently being used to produce rooted cuttings. The pod production, biomass, and height of the 12 clones ranged from 6.55 to 14.4, 1.57 to 13.5, and 1.29 to 1.70 times the respective population means. The genetic gains of 13.5%, 77%, and 147% for height, biomass, and pod production respectively are greater than genetic gains for other tree species and are probably due to the great genetic variability in the local population and the lack of any prior genetic improvement program.