Plant and Soil

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 607–623 | Cite as

Response of Douglas fir seedlings to nitrate and ammonium nitrogen sources at different levels of pH and iron supply

  • R. Van Den Driessche


Douglas fir seedlings were grown for two to three months in sand and soil cultures in a greenhouse to examine their growth response to nitrogen (N) source at different levels of pH and iron (Fe) supply. In the first two experiments nutrient solutions of known pH were automatically applied to the top of the sand cultures and allowed to run to waste from the bottom. Under these conditions seedlings made most growth on nitrate (NO3−N) under acid (pH4) conditions, but most growth on ammonium (NH4−N) under neutral (pH7) conditions. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) was used to create a range of pH conditions (from 4.0 to 7.2) in a peat and sand artificial soil. Over the pH range 4 to 6 NH4−N or NO3+NH4−N produced larger seedlings than NO3−N alone, but above pH6 growth on all N sources was depressed. Chemical analysis showed that seedling Ca concentration had increased and Fe concentration had decreased with increase in CaCO3 application. Both Ca and Fe concentrations were higher in seedlings receiving NO3−N than in those receiving NH4 or NO3+NH4.

In sub-irrigated sand cultures, Doughlas fir seedlings receiving NO3−N were shown to respond to additions of Fe chelate, but seedlings receiving NH4−N responded little to Fe chelate. At pH5 seedlings receiving NO3−N did not grow as big as seedlings receiving NH4−N in the absence of Fe chelate, but addition of Fe chelate resulted in NO3-fed seedlings growing larger than NH4-fed seedlings. The relationship between seedling Fe concentration and N nutrition is discussed.

The relatively larger root dry weight and surface area of seedlings grown on NO3−N, as compared to NH4−N, in sand culture, was noted.


CaCO3 Calcium Carbonate Ammonium Nitrogen Large Root Soil Culture 
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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Van Den Driessche
    • 1
  1. 1.Research DivisionBritish Columbia Forest ServiceVictoria

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