New Forests

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 199–213 | Cite as

Container volume and growing density influence western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.) seedling development during nursery culture and establishment

  • Matthew M. Aghai
  • Jeremiah R. Pinto
  • Anthony S. Davis


Larch tree species (Larix Mill.) are both ecologically and commercially valuable in their native range and are the focus of many restoration, afforestation, and commercial reforestation efforts in the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere. Land use change, shifting climate, and poor natural regeneration are making it increasingly difficult to establish the species; therefore, artificial regeneration is critical to ensure this timber species maintains its productive role on the landscape. New stocktypes are continually being developed to aid target seedlings for difficult sites, and critical, non-confounding evaluations of them are needed for target seedling development. This research evaluates the effect of container parameters on potential target seedlings. It examines tolerance thresholds of western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.) with respect to moisture and temperature status in the rhizosphere during early establishment. A suite of morphological measurements was used to assess seedling quality and relative performance following transplant. Modifying a commercially available container developed four distinct stocktypes of 111, 143, 175 and 207 ml that were paired with a volume-dependent nutrient regime at two culturing densities. Seedling phenotype was affected to a greater extent by container density than by container volume. Despite changes to container volume, root:shoot were found to be similar, indicating benefits of a tailored nutrient regime during nursery culture. Simulated field trials revealed that a low density growing arrangement improved post-transplant seedling growth, specifically root growth. Also, the 207 ml container facilitated greater growth in dry soil conditions compared to smaller containers. Lower (10 °C) rhizosphere temperature hindered root growth; however, seedling survival was 100 %, warranting the testing of earlier outplanting windows for this species. This evaluation of stocktype performance contributes to a greater body of work with this species and its congeners, which will ultimately benefit reforestation and afforestation efforts alike.


Regeneration Container seedling Seedling quality Stocktype Simulated field performance 



This research was funded in part by Jiffy® Products of America through the University of Idaho Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research. Olga Kildisheva, Josh Miller, Jake Kleinknecht, and Don Regan provided assistance during crop production, experimentation, and assessment. In addition, we are grateful to Dr. Douglass F. Jacobs of the Purdue University Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center for an equipment loan.


  1. Alvarez-Uria P, Korner C (2007) Low temperature limits of root growth in deciduous and evergreen temperate tree species. Funct Ecol 21:211–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amidon TE, Barnett JP, Gallagher HP, Mcgilvray JM (1982) A field test of containerized seedlings under drought conditions. In: Guilin RW, Barnett JP (ed) Proceedings of the containerized forest tree seedlings conference. USDA Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. Gen Tech Rep SO-37, pp 139–144Google Scholar
  3. Aphalo PJ, Ballare CL (1995) On the importance of information-acquiring systems in plant–plant interactions. Funct Ecol 9:5–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aphalo P, Rikala R (2002) Field performance of silver-birch planting-stock grown at different spacing and in containers of different volume. New For 25:93–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowden R (1993) Stock type selection in British Columbia. In: Huber R (ed) Proceedings of the 1993 forest nursery association of British Columbia meeting. Forest Nursery Association of British Columbia, pp 17–20Google Scholar
  6. Burdett AN (1986) Understanding root growth capacity: theoretical considerations in assessing planting stock quality by means of root growth tests. Can J For Res 17(8):768–775CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burdett AN (1990) Physiological processes in plantation establishment and the development of specifications for forest planting stock. Can J For Res 20:415–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carlson WC (1986) Root system considerations in the quality of loblolly pine seedlings. South J Appl For 10:87–92Google Scholar
  9. Carlson LW, Endean F (1976) The effect of rooting volume and container configuration on the early growth of white spruce seedlings. Can J For Res 6:221–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapman KA, Colombo SJ (2006) Early root morphology of jack pine seedlings grown in different types of container. Scand J For Res 21:372–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chirino E, Vilagrosa A, Hernandez EL, Matos A, Vallejo VR (2008) Effects of a deep container on morpho-functional characteristics and root colonization in Quercus suber. Seedlings for reforestation in Mediterranean climate. For Ecol Manag 256(4):779–785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis AS, Jacobs DF (2005) Quantifying root system quality of nursery seedlings and relationship to outplanting performance. New For 30:295–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dominguez-Lerena S, Herrero Sierra N, Carrasco Manzano I, Ocana Bueno L, Penuelas Rubira JL, Mexal JG (2006) Container characteristics influence Pinus pinea seedling development in the nursery and field. For Ecol Manag 221(1–3):67–71Google Scholar
  14. Dumroese RK (2009) Propagation protocol for production of container Larix occidentalis Nutt. plants (66 ml (4 cu. in) Ray Leach “Cone-tainers”). USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Moscow, Idaho. Accessed 10 Jan 2012
  15. Endean F, Carlson LW (1975) The effect of rooting volume on the early growth of lodgepole pine seedlings. Can J For Res 5:55–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grossnickle SC (2000) Ecophysiology of northern spruce species: the performance of planted spruce seedlings. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, p 409Google Scholar
  17. Grossnickle SC (2005) Importance of root growth in overcoming planting stress. New For 30:273–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grossnickle SC (2012) Why seedlings survive: influence of plant attributes. New For 43(5–6):711–738Google Scholar
  19. Harrington JT, Mexal JG, Fisher JT (1994) Volume displacement provides a quick and accurate way to quantify new root production. Tree Planters Notes 45(4):121–124Google Scholar
  20. Hocking D, Mitchell DL (1974) The influence of rooting volume: seedling espacement and substratum density on greenhouse growth of lodgepole pine, white spruce and Douglas-fir grown in extruded peat cylinders. Can J For Res 5:440–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hsu YM, Tseng MJ, Lin CH (1996) Container volume affects growth and development of wax apple. HortScience 31(7):1139–1142Google Scholar
  22. Jacobs DF, Davis AS, Wilson BC, Dumroese RK, Goodman RC, Salifu KF (2008) Short-day treatment alters Douflas-fir seedling dehardening and transplant root proliferation at varying rhizosphere temperatures. Can J For Res 38:1526–1535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kinghorn JM (1974) Principles and concepts in container planting. In: Tinus RW, Stein WI, Balmer WE (eds) Proceedings of the North American containerized forest tree seedling symposium. Great Plains Agricultural Council, Denver, pp 1–8Google Scholar
  24. Lamhamed MS, Bernier PY, Hébert C (1997) Effect of shoot size on the gas exchange and growth of containerized Picea mariana seedlings under different watering regimes. New For 13(1–3):209–223Google Scholar
  25. Landis TD, Tinus RW, McDonald SE, Barnett JP (1990) Containers and growing media. The container tree nursery manual: agricultural handbook 674, vol 2. USDA, Forest Service, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  26. Liu QJ (1997) Structure and dynamics of the subalpine coniferous forest on Changbai Mountain, China. Plant Ecol 132:97–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liu Y, Bai SL, Zhu Y, Li GL, Jiang P (2012) Promoting seedling stress resistance through nursery techniques in China. New For 43:639–649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lopushinski W, Max TA (1990) Effect of soil temperature on root and shoot growth and on budburst timing in conifer seedling transplant. New For 4:107–124Google Scholar
  29. Matthes-Sears V, Larson DW (1999) Limitation to seedlings growth and survival by the quantity and quality of rooting space: implications for the establishment of Thuja occidentalis on cliff faces. Int J Plant Sci 160(1):122–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McKenzie D, Peterson DW, Peterson DL, Thornton PE (2003) Climatic and biophysical controls on conifer species distributions in mountain forests of Washington State, USA. J Biogeogr 30:1093–1108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oliet JA, Jacobs DF (2012) Restoring forests: advances in techniques and theory. New For 43:535–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Parker WC, Colombo SJ, Cherry ML, Flannigan MD, Greifenhagen S, McAlpine RS, Papadopol C, Scarr T (2000) Third millennium forestry: what climate change might mean to forests and forest management in Ontario. For Chron 76:445–463Google Scholar
  33. Pedlar JH, McKenney DW, Aubin I, Beardmore T, Beaulieh J, Iverson L, O’Neill GA, Winder RS, Ste-Marie C (2012) Placing forestry in the assisted migration debate. BioScience 62(9):835–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pinto JR (2005) Container and physiological status comparisons of Pinus ponderosa seedlings. Thesis, University of IdahoGoogle Scholar
  35. Pinto JR, Dumroese RK, Davis AS, Landis TD (2011a) Conducting seedling stocktype trials: a new approach to an age old question. J For 109(5):293–299Google Scholar
  36. Pinto JR, Marshall JD, Dumroese RK, Davis AS, Cobos DR (2011b) Establishment and growth of container seedlings for reforestation: a function of stocktype and edaphic conditions. For Ecol Manag 261:1876–1884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pinto JR, Marshall JD, Dumroese RK, Davis AS, Cobos DR (2012) Photosynthetic response, carbon isotopic composition, survival, and growth of three stock types under water stress enhanced by vegetative competition. Can J For Res 42:333–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rehfeldt GE, Jaquish BC (2010) Ecological impacts and management strategies for western larch in the face of climate-change. Mitig Adapt Strat Global Chang 15(3):283–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rehfeldt GE, Tchebakova NM, Parfenova E (2004) Genetic responses to climate and climate change in conifers of the temperate and boreal forests. Recent Res Dev Genet Breed 1:113–130Google Scholar
  40. Ritchie GA (1984) Assessing seedling quality. In: Duryea ML, Landis TD (eds) Forest nursery manual: production of bareroot seedlings. Martinus Nijhoff/Dr. W. Junk, The Hague, pp 243–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rose R, Atkinson M, Sabin T (1991a) Root volume as a grading criterion to improve field performance of Douglas-fir seedlings. New For 5:195–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rose R, Gleason J, Atkinson M, Sabin T (1991b) Grading ponderosa pine seedlings for outplanting according to their root volume. West J Appl For 6:11–15Google Scholar
  43. Scarratt JB (1972) Effect of tube diameter and spacing on the size of tubed seedling planting stock. Info Rep O-X-170. Canadian Forestry Service, Great Lakes Forest Research Centre, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, p 16Google Scholar
  44. Schmidt WC, Shearer RC, Roe AL (1976) Ecology and silviculture of western larch forests. (No. 1520) US Department of Agriculture, Forest ServiceGoogle Scholar
  45. Simpson DG (1991) Growing density and container volume affect nursery and field growth of interior spruce seedlings. North J Appl For 8:160–165Google Scholar
  46. Simpson DG, Ritchie GA (1997) Does RGP predict field performance? A debate. New For 13:253–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smith JK, Fischer WC (1997) Fire ecology of the forest habitat types of northern Idaho. USDA, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, Utah. Gen Tech Rep INT-GTR-363Google Scholar
  48. Spittlhouse DL, Stewart RB (2004) Adaptation to climate change in forest management. BC J Ecosyst Manag 4(1):7–17Google Scholar
  49. Taiz L, Zeiger E (2006) Plant physiology, 4th edn. Sinauer Associates, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  50. Tchebakova NM, Rehfeldt GE, Parfenova EI (2005) Impacts of climate change on the distribution of Larix spp. and Pinus sylvestris and their climatypes in Siberia. Mitig Adapt Strat Global Chang 11:861–882Google Scholar
  51. Thompson BE (1985) Seedling morphological evaluation: what can you tell by looking. In: Duryea ML (ed) Evaluating seedling quality: principles, procedures, and predictive ability of major tests. Oregon State University, Forestry Research Laboratory, Corvallis, pp 59–72Google Scholar
  52. Timmis R, Tanaka Y (1976) Effects of container density and plant water stress on growth and cold hardiness of Douglass-fir seedlings. For Sci 22(2):167–172Google Scholar
  53. Tschaplinski TJ, Blake TJ (1985) Effects of root restriction on growth correlations, water relations, and senescence of alder seedlings. Physiol Plantarum 64:167–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Valladares F, Sanchez-Gomez D (2006) Ecophysiological traits associated with drought in Mediterranean tree seedlings: individual responses versus interspecific trends in eleven species. Plant Biol 8:688–697PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vance NC, Running SW (1985) Light reduction and moisture stress: effects on growth and water relations of western larch seedlings. Can J For Res 15:72–77Google Scholar
  56. Villar-Salvador P, Puértolas J, Cuesta B, Peñuelas JL, Uscola M, Heredia-Guerroro N, Benayas JMR (2012) Increase in size and nitrogen concentration enhances seedling survival in Mediterranean plantations. Insights from an ecophysiological conceptual model of plant survival. New For 43:755–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wang Z, Zhang SY (1992) Larch forests in China. Forestry Publication House in China, Beijing, pp 185–186 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  58. Waring RH, Franklin JF (1979) Evergreen coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. Science 204:1380–1386PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Will RE, Teskey RO (1997) Effect of elevated carbon dioxide concentration and root restriction on net photosynthesis, water relations and foliar carbohydrate status of loblolly pine seedlings. Tree Physiol 17:655–661PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew M. Aghai
    • 1
  • Jeremiah R. Pinto
    • 2
  • Anthony S. Davis
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research, College of Natural ResourcesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  2. 2.Rocky Mountain Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceMoscowUSA

Personalised recommendations