Clonal Variation in Morphology of Populus Root Systems Following Irrigation with Landfill Leachate or Water during 2 Years of Establishment
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Increased municipal solid waste generation in North America has prompted the use of Populus for phytoremediation of waste waters including landfill leachate. Populus species and hybrids are ideal for such applications because of their high water usage rates, fast growth, and extensive root systems. Adventitious rooting (i.e., lateral rooting from primordia and basal rooting from callus) of Populus is important for phytotechnologies to ensure successful plantation establishment with genotypes that thrive when irrigated with highly variable or specific contaminants. We evaluated differences in root system morphology following establishment with high-salinity municipal solid waste landfill leachate or uncontaminated well water (control). Populus clones (NC13460, NC14018, NC14104, NC14106, DM115, DN5, NM2, and NM6) were irrigated during 2005 and 2006 in northern Wisconsin, USA and tested for differences in morphology of lateral and basal root types, as well as fine (0–2 mm diameter), small (2–5 mm), and coarse (>5 mm) roots. Across treatments and clones, trees averaged five roots per root type. Leachate-irrigated trees had 87% (lateral) and 105% (basal) as many roots as those irrigated with water. Leachate-irrigated trees had 96% as many fine roots as watering with irrigation water, whereas trees with leachate had 112% (small) and 88% (coarse) as many roots versus water. Despite root necrosis and regrowth in 23% of the trees, leachate irrigation did not negatively affect root diameter or dry mass. Given that adequate rooting is necessary for plantation establishment, leachate and similar waste waters are viable irrigation and fertilization sources of Populus crops used as feedstocks for biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts.