Plant and Soil

, Volume 344, Issue 1–2, pp 99–110 | Cite as

Using hydrogel and clay to improve the water status of seedlings for dryland restoration

  • Esteban ChirinoEmail author
  • Alberto Vilagrosa
  • V. Ramón Vallejo
Regular Article


In dryland ecosystems, post-transplant water stress produces high seedling mortality after the first summer following outplanting. Our aim was to assess the effects of clay and hydrogel, both on the water holding capacity of the growing media and on various morphological and physiological characteristics of Quercus suber seedlings in the nursery and, subsequently, during the first 2 years in the field. Quercus suber L. seedlings were grown in four types of growing media: CS (Control growing media, standard mixture of limed peat and coconut peat, 1:1 v/v ratio), SC-10 (CS mixed with sepiolite clay at 10% v/v) and HS (CS mixed with hydrogel Stockosorb® K-400 at two doses, 0.7 and 1.5% w/w). HS-1.5 showed the best results, increasing the water holding capacity of the root plug, improving seedling water status and increasing seedling survival in the field. SC-10 showed an intermediate effect on seedling response in the field. Mixing hydrogel with a peat-based growing medium to form root plugs is a suitable technique for cultivating species to be planted in areas with a strong water deficit. This technique reduces post-transplant water stress in seedlings during their first months in the field and contributes to improve forest-restoration methods in dryland ecosystems.


Quercus suber Plant stock quality Substrate Water availability Carbon isotope composition 



Control growing media


CS growing media mixed with sepiolite clay at 10% v/v


CS growing media mixed with hydrogel at 0.7 w/w


CS growing media mixed with hydrogel at 1.5% w/w


Shoot height


Root collar diameter


Slenderness index


Shoot dry weight


Root dry weight


Root/shoot ratio


Seedling dry weight


Root dry weight/seedling dry weight ratio


Predawn xylem water potential


Volumetric water content


Carbon isotope composition


Carbon isotope discrimination


Pee Dee Belemnite Standard


Stomatal conductance


General Lineal Model



This research was partially funded by the European Commission (CREOAK project, QLRT-2001-01594), the Spanish Government through the Ministry of Environment (ESTRES project, 063/SGTB/2007/7.1) and the Consolider program INGENIO 2010 (GRACCIE Project, CSD2007-00067), as well as by the Generalitat Valenciana (APLITEC project, GV 05/208; INNOVA project, GVPRE/2008/085 and Feedbacks-Prometeo/2009/006). A special thanks to the Forest Service in Alicante (Consellería de Medi Ambient, Aigua, Urbanisme i Habitatge) for the use of the Santa Faz nursery, Dr. Eustaquio Gil-Pelegrín (Centro de Investigación y Tecnología Agroalimentaria de Aragón, CITA) who carried out the internal review of the manuscript prior to submission and Jacqueline Scheiding for revising and editing the text. The CEAM Foundation is financed by the Generalitat Valenciana and BANCAJA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esteban Chirino
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alberto Vilagrosa
    • 1
    • 3
  • V. Ramón Vallejo
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.CEAM - Departament of EcologyUniversity of AlicanteAlicanteSpain
  2. 2.Forest Restoration GroupMediterranean Center for Environmental Studies (Foundation CEAM)AlicanteSpain
  3. 3.Mediterranean Center for Environmental Studies (Foundation CEAM)AlicanteSpain

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