Current issue: 53(4)
Although controlled release fertilizer (CRF) with single and multiple-layer coatings are extensively used in tree seedlings, studies that compare the impact of CRF type and application rate on seedling growth, nutrient storage, and, most importantly, outplanting performance, are lacking. In the current study, container-grown Pinus tabulaeformis Carr. (Chinese pine) seedlings were fertilized with commercial CRF with either one or multiple coating layers with equivalent formulation and longevity, at six rates ranging from 40 to 240 mg N seedling–1. Seedlings were sampled for dry mass, non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) content, and mineral nutrient status at the end of the growing season in the nursery, and subsequently outplanted for one season. Compared to Chinese pine seedlings fertilized with single-layer CRF treatments, seedlings treated with multiple-layer CRF had higher starch concentrations but reduced dry mass and N, P, K concentrations in the nursery, and reduced diameter growth in the field. Fertilization rates of 80 and 120 mg N seedling–1 generally yielded maximal plant dry mass and mineral nutrient content. Field survival peaked at 80 mg N seedling–1. Seedling growth, soluble sugar content, and starch concentration in the nursery and survival in the field consistently decreased at rates of 200 and 240 mg N seedling–1. In our study, optimal nursery and field performance of P. tabulaeformis were observed using single layer CRF at 80 mg N seedling–1 (3.3 g CRF l–1 media).
Stored nutrient reserves are closely correlated with survival and growth of transplanted seedlings. Previous studies have proven that combining pre-hardening fertilization (PF) with fall fertilization (FF) built seedling nutrient reserves more effectively; however, their effect on transplanting performance is poorly documented. We investigated the independent and interacting effects of 2 levels of PF and 4 levels of FF on seedling growth, nutrient acquisition and accumulation during different growth phases 1 year after transplanting of Quercus variabilis Blume in a nursery. High PF benefited nutrient reserves and subsequent transplanted seedling growth and tissue nutrient storage at the end of the rapid growth and hardening phases. Fall fertilization with 36 mg N increased stem dry mass and tissue nutrient content at the end of the hardening phase. At the conclusion of establishment, PF and FF showed a significant interaction for N and K uptake from soil. At the end of the rapid growth and hardening phases, high PF consistently increased nutrient uptake. Enhanced N and K uptake occurred following application of 36 mg N of FF at the end of the hardening phase. Distinct roles for PF and FF on 3 phases of transplanted seedlings demonstrated the necessity to evaluate fertilization in terms of nutrient reserves and subsequent transplanting performance in consecutive phases. Combining 100 mg N seedling–1 during pre-hardening with 36 mg N seedling–1 during fall yielded ideal transplanting performance for Quercus variabilis seedlings.