Growth and Stem Quality Responses to Fertilizer Application by 21 Loblolly Pine Clones in the Virginia Piedmont

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Clonal forestry offers the opportunity to increase yields, enhance uniformity and improve wood characteristics. Intensive silvicultural practices, including fertilization, will be required to capture the full growth potential of clonal plantations. However, variation in nutrient use efficiency that exists among clones could affect growth responses. Our research objective was to determine the range of growth response and stem form quality due to fertilization in clones of Pinus taeda. A split-plot experimental design was used, with the whole plots being two levels of fertilizer application (fertilizer versus control) and the split plot factor being 25 clones. Whole plot treatments were blocked and replicated four times. Six years after planting and five years after fertilizer application, a repeated measures analysis showed fertilizer by-time and clone-by-time interactions affected volume (p < 0.10). Clone-by-fertilizer interactions were observed for tree height, branch traits, and a metric of foliar display. These interactions were primarily due to scale-effect phenomena rather than rank shifts. The magnitude of fertilizer responses observed in a small number of genotypes suggests that knowledge of fertilizer responses in widely deployed genotypes, if developed prior to mid-rotation, may better optimize management of single-clone blocks. Our results further indicate that a range of possibilities exist for the design and application of clone-specific precision silvicultural systems.


Originally published in Forest Ecology & Management 261(3), p. 362-372, 2011

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