, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 313-331
Date: 10 Dec 2008

Field performance of Pinus halepensis planted in Mediterranean arid conditions: relative influence of seedling morphology and mineral nutrition

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In Mediterranean arid regions, relatively small planting stock has traditionally been used in an attempt to reduce drought susceptibility, though few studies have examined influences of initial seedling morphology and nutrition on long-term plantation establishment. We fertilized Pinus halepensis Mill. seedlings in the nursery with controlled release fertilizer (CRF) varying in formulations and rates; 9-13-18 and 17-10-10 (N-P-K) formulations at 3, 5 and 7 g l−1 substrate plus an unfertilized control and we evaluated growth and survival 7 years after planting in arid conditions in Almería province, southeast Spain. Interactions between initial height and fertilizer treatments occurred during the first 3 years; initial size advantages of specific fertilizer treatments (7 g l−1 of 9-13-18 and 17-10-10 at 3 g l−1) persisted after 7 years. The largest and most nutrient-rich seedlings from 9-13-18 at 7 g l−1 (41.0 cm tall, 4.4 mg of P per g of root tissue at time of planting) exhibited the highest survival after 7 years (79%), while survival declined to 42% for non-fertilized plants (12.9 cm tall and 0.6 mg of P per g of root tissue). Initial seedling morphological parameters were most consistently correlated with field performance. Root P concentration was the nutrient variable most closely related to survival. Our data emphasizes importance of longer-term experiments to accurately assess influences of nursery treatments on field responses, particularly in arid areas. We suggest that larger seedlings with greater nutrient reserves than are currently being used should be incorporated into Mediterranean plantations.