Plantation forestry is now an imperative to meet wood requirements efficiently on the finite land available for wood production. Three main determinants of profitability are productivity, price per unit of wood harvested, and harvest age (the sooner the better). The first two are largely self-evident, while reducing harvest age lowers the effective cost of growing wood. Among these determinants, however, are strong interplays which include trade-offs. Key trade-offs involve adverse genetic correlations between various wood properties and growth-rate variables, and adverse effects on the wood quality of silvicultural interventions that raise site productivity and/or reduce harvest age. Moreover, the adverse effects of silviculture on wood properties tend to be accompanied by heightened expressions of genetic variation in wood properties. The trade-offs involve both increasing the percentage of corewood (‘juvenile wood’) and some more direct effects on wood quality. The pervasiveness of the trade-offs, and the heightened genetic expression, accentuate the call for genetic selection to defend wood quality. Such selection, however, will entail some costs in the appropriate emphasis on breeding for productivity. In this paper we review these issues, identify gaps in research information and offer guidance for tree breeders and silviculturists. While radiata pine is the special case, the applicability to some other species is briefly discussed.
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