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  Eur.J.Hortic.Sci. 81 (3) 157-164 | DOI: 10.17660/eJHS.2016/81.3.4
ISSN 1611-4426 print and 1611-4434 online | © ISHS 2016 | European Journal of Horticultural Science | Original article

Late frost reactions of different populations of Quercus robur L. and Tilia cordata Mill. in Germany

M. Selig and H. Bohne
Institute for Horticultural Production Systems, Section Woody Plant and Propagation Physiology, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany

The German government amended the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatschG) in 2010 and six defined areas of origin were assigned (BMU, 2012) for the use of plants in free nature. The transfer of propagation material between them is forbidden from March 1st, 2020. This should protect locally adapted tree populations from losing their adapted traits by hybridization with non-local populations. However, the question of local adaptation in woody species in Germany is not clearly demonstrated. To get nearer to the answer of this question the current study was carried out to investigate differences in late frost reactions among German populations of Quercus robur and Tilia cordata by artificial freezing shoots at -6°C and -12°C in April/May 2012. Bud burst was rated prior to the freezing experiments after transferring populations from different origins to Hannover, and frost damage, sugar, starch and proline concentration were measured afterwards. To estimate long term survival, whole plants were frozen simultaneously and then cultivated to investigate their regeneration ability. We did not find differences in bud burst and late frost hardiness of shoots between German populations of the target species. Differences in these traits only occurred in the Hungarian population of Quercus robur which exhibited a higher grade of bud burst but lower frost damage. With few exceptions, no biochemical differences occurred among populations of the target species and late frost hardiness was not affected. Regarding late frost reactions, local adaptation of German tree populations seems not to be as distinctive as the defined areas of origin assume.

Keywords adaptation, bud burst, carbohydrates, index of injury, proline, provenances

Significance of this study

What is already known on this subject?

  • The adaptation of woody plant populations to local ecological conditions can lead to different responses to abiotic stress, such as late frost. These adaptive traits can be lost by hybridization with non-local populations. However, the magnitude of local adaptation in German populations of Quercus robur and Tilia cordata is not fully clear. Nevertheless from March 1st, 2020 the Federal Nature Conservation Act forbids the planting of populations outside their newly defined areas of origin in free nature.
What are the new findings?
  • After transfer to the experimental site in Hannover and growth for one vegetation period, we did not find significant differences in bud burst between German populations of the target species. Also, after artificial freezing at -6°C and -12°C in April/May 2012, no interpopulation differences in frost damage occurred. Differences in sugar, starch and proline concentrations were marginal and did not affect late frost hardiness.
What is the expected impact on horticulture?
  • Based on the results for possible risks due to late frost, local adaptation does not seem to be as distinctive as the defined areas of origin assume. An exchange of plant material between adjacent defined areas of origin should be possible in case of a lack of suitable plant material. This would alleviate the expenditure for the acquisition of seed for tree nurseries and improve the supply of planting stock.

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Received: 11 December 2015 | Revised: 1 March 2016 | Accepted: 10 May 2016 | Published: 20 June 2016 | Available online: 20 June 2016

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