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Effects of edaphic conditions on site quality for Salix purpurea ‘Hotel’ plantations across a large climatic gradient in Canada

Abstract

Willow has been identified as a possible species for supplying large quantities of biomass for bioenergy and wood fibers in Canada. However, before site selection occurs, there is a need to know how the soils and climate of the prairies and central regions affect willow productivity. Soil, foliar, and climatic variables were therefore measured along with yields at nine “first rotation” Salix purpurea ‘Hotel’ plantations from central Alberta to southern Ontario. Correlation analysis was used to identify those parameters having the most influence on yields. Relationships between soil and climate and growth were established by regression analysis. The acid–base status of the soil as dictated by bulk elemental composition, in particular the presence of Ca, was found to be the dominant factor affecting productivity (r = 0.967, P < 0.001 total Ca vs. yields) despite large regional differences in climate. From a nutritional standpoint, total soil N (r = 0.743, P = 0.048) and foliar K (r = 0.938, P = 0.009 for sites with adequate moisture) were positively correlated with growth. S. purpurea ‘Hotel’ yields were found to be primarily limited by water availability at the two lowest productivity prairie sites. Soil total Ca concentration, pH and total organic C concentration were all generally correlated with higher yields. Additional deficiencies appeared in the following order of importance: water > N and K > Mg. As a whole, soil properties were the dominant predictors of ‘Hotel’ growth in this study, which suggests that, even at the regional scale, growth was governed in large part by the capacity of soils to retain water and/or nutrients. Climate played a lesser role, except perhaps at two sites which appeared to receive inadequate moisture.

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Correspondence to Nicolas Bélanger.

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Ens, J., Farrell, R.E. & Bélanger, N. Effects of edaphic conditions on site quality for Salix purpurea ‘Hotel’ plantations across a large climatic gradient in Canada. New Forests 44, 899–918 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-013-9384-6

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Keywords

  • Biomass energy
  • Short rotation intensive culture
  • Fast growth
  • Yields
  • Soil nutrient availability
  • Foliar nutrition
  • Calcium
  • Nitrogen
  • Potassium