Improvement of specific gravity through tree breeding was an early choice made in the mid 20th century due to its ease of measurement and impact on pulp yield and lumber strength and stiffness. This was often the first, and in many cases, the only wood quality trait selected for. However, from a product standpoint, increased specific gravity has shown to lower many paper strength and stiffness properties and has been assumed to be directly attributable to increased fiber coarseness. As a result, it is currently not clear which fiber trait would best benefit a tree improvement program for paper products. This review found coarseness to be perhaps more important to paper strength and stiffness whereas tracheid length showed better promise from a breeding point of view due to its independence from specific gravity. However, both traits possessed strong heritability and influence on product performance and thus both would be beneficial to breed for depending on organizational goals and end product mix. The objective of this paper is to review and prioritize coarseness and tracheid length from both an end use and raw material perspective. To aid in prioritization, the variation, correlation, and heritability of both traits were reviewed along with significant genetic and phenotypic correlations. Variation trends within and between families as well as within a tree were reviewed.
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