Current issue: 54(2)
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).