Fall fertilization of Holm oak affects N and P dynamics, root growth potential, and post-planting phenology and growth
For Holm oak (Quercus ilex L.), a flush growing species, nutrient loading during the growing season is difficult and can lead to a low nutrient status of the seedlings. To provide insights about Holm oak nutrient dynamics during fall in the nursery and subsequent planting performance, a factorial nursery experiment was conducted in a mild fall–winter area testing the effects of timing of fertilization (early and late fall) and rate (two doses of a NPK fertilizer that applied 28 and 56 mg N per seedling), followed by an experimental plantation.
Biomass, allocation pattern, shoot N and K, and root K were unaffected by both rate and timing of fall fertilization. However, shoot P concentration of fall fertilized plants was significantly increased, and root P concentration was enhanced by applying fertilizer at either the highest rate or during early fall. This revealed a different nutrient dynamics during fall that was dependent on the specific nutrient and plant component.
Root growth potential was positively correlated to nursery root P concentration. Six months after planting, fall fertilized plants showed higher shoot biomass, higher proportion of new leaves, and faster development, producing leaves earlier compared with unfertilized plants.
It is concluded that early fall fertilization promotes nutrient loading of P in Holm oak, with significant effects on root growth potential and field growth by means of a phenologically earlier development and a higher aboveground biomass.
KeywordsLate season fertilization Quercus ilex Nutrient loading Phosphorus Root growth potential
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