Plant and Soil

, Volume 360, Issue 1–2, pp 55–76 | Cite as

Establishing woody perennials on hostile soils in arid and semi-arid regions – A review

  • Gausul Azam
  • Cameron D. Grant
  • Ian K. Nuberg
  • Robert S. Murray
  • Rabindra K. Misra
Review Article


Background and aims

Woody perennials can be difficult to establish on harsh soils in arid and semi-arid regions. Historically, technological advances have focussed on methods to improve transplanting and direct-seeding but the available information on these advances remains fragmented and the edaphic factors have been largely ignored. This review explores the literature on plant establishment and identifies soil properties that limit plant response in harsh environments.


We reveal that some woody perennials are particularly well-adapted to dry conditions and can also help reclaim degraded landscapes. Furthermore, the environmental and phenological factors that limit the success of direct seeding are well understood but the edaphic factors are not. For example, seedbed preparation and subsoil amelioration before seeding have not been evaluated in dry regions. Seed-priming and seed-placement are also poorly understood, as is the tolerance of woody perennials to different salt types in waterlogged soils of extreme pH and high soil strength. The reason why woody perennials can penetrate strong, hard soils is not obvious from the literature. They apparently cannot exert root growth pressures of the same magnitude as domesticated plants, so they must be able to exploit soil biopores and cracks more efficiently. Other gaps in our understanding of the soil factors that limit woody perennial establishment on hostile soils are identified.


Direct seeding Transplanting Soil-root interactions Hard soils Low rainfall Native plants 



The senior author acknowledges support from the University of Adelaide in the form of an International Postgraduate Student Scholarship and the Cooperative Research Centre for Future Farm Industries for supplementary support. Helpful reviewer comments on our manuscript are also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gausul Azam
    • 1
  • Cameron D. Grant
    • 1
  • Ian K. Nuberg
    • 1
  • Robert S. Murray
    • 1
  • Rabindra K. Misra
    • 2
  1. 1.Waite Research Institute, School of Agriculture, Food & WineUniversity of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Engineering & SurveyingUniversity of Southern QueenslandToowoombaAustralia

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