Growth trajectories are a biological process important to plant and animal breeding, and to evolutionary genetic studies. In this article, we report the detection of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) responsible for growth trajectories in poplars that are used as a model system for the study of forest biology. These QTLs were localized on a genetic linkage map of polymorphic markers using a statistical mapping method incorporating growth-curve models. The effects of the QTLs on growth are described as a function of age, so that age-specific changes in QTL effects can be readily projected throughout the entire growth process. The QTLs identified display increased effects on growth when trees age, yet the timing of QTL activation is earlier for stem height than diameter, which is consistent with the ecological viewpoint of canopy competition. The implications of the results for breeding and silviculture are discussed.
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