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Root development and configuration in intensively managed radiata pine plantations

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In south-east Australia, where radiata pine (Pinus radiata D. Don) is grown on sandy soils low in nutrients and short of water, early establishment, and rapid growth to canopy closure lead to increased productivity. At this stage demands for nutrients and water are high, and trees respond vigorously to silvicultural inputs.

For several months after transplanting in winter roots are confined within a narrow planting wedge, low temperature restricts new root growth and slows recovery from water stress in plants. From spring, depending upon the configuration and vigour of the roots transplanted, lateral roots extend radially throughout the soil.

Although there were small decreases in concentration of roots radially from the stems of very young trees, such spatial differences disappeared between ages 2 and 3, so that rooting density was independent of distance from the stem. The pattern of vertical distribution of lateral roots was not influenced by age and 80–90% of the lateral roots were within the top 30 cm soil. Roots developed rapidly as the trees grew towards canopy closure, but in general the rooting densities of these pines are among the lowest reported for plants. In rapidly growing trees approaching canopy closure, the secondary thickening of the lateral roots was sufficient to double the weight of roots without altering root length.

Knowledge about root growth and root configuration during the early phase of plantation development will assist management decisions where intensive silviculture is practiced, and hence ensure the most efficient use of nutrients and water.

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Sadanandan Nambiar, E.K. Root development and configuration in intensively managed radiata pine plantations. Plant Soil 71, 37–47 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02182639

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Key words

  • Ecological aspects
  • Nutrient uptake
  • Pine
  • Pinus radiata D. Don
  • Physiological aspects
  • Root development
  • Water absorption