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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 43, Issue 1 — January 2017

Fine Root Growth Response to Soil-Applied Nitrogen and Paclobutrazol    (View PDF)

Gary Watson and Angela Hewitt

Abstract: Practices to promote tree root growth have been sought in arboriculture for many years, especially as a treatment for trees that are stressed or in decline. Tree fertilization is a common practice in arboriculture. A few research reports have shown that nitrogen fertilization can increase fine-root density in localized areas of soil where the fertilizer has been applied, but the effect on the whole root system has not been investigated. Research has reported fine-root stimulating effects from basal application of the growth regulator paclobutrazol, but results have not been consistent. More information is needed. A slow-release granular formulation of nitrogen was broadcast over the entire root system of mature oaks for four consecutive years, with or without a paclobutrazol basal drench in the first year. Nitrogen was also applied to younger green ash and black maple as granular broadcast or subsoil liquid soil injection for two consecutive years. There was no overall increase in fine-root development from any of the treatments, and no localized increase from soil injection application of nitrogen. Growth response of the crowns was minimal. Soil profiles were undisturbed with moderate natural nitrogen availability. The results suggest that routine fertilization of trees at standard recommended rates may be ineffective if soil fertility is moderate.

Keywords: ANSI A300 Standard for Tree Care Operations; Fertilization; Growth Regulator; Injection; Nitrogen; Paclobutrazol; Root Growth; Root Stimulation.

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