Fine root dynamics in a developing Populus deltoides plantation
A closely spaced (1 x 1 m) cottonwood (Populus deltoides Bartr.) plantation was established to evaluate the effects of nutrient availability on fine root dynamics. Slow-release fertilizer (17:6:12 N,P,K plus micronutrients) was applied to 225-m2 plots at 0,50,10O and 200 kg N ha-1, and plots were monitored for two growing seasons. Fine root production, mortality, live root standing crop and life span were analyzed based on monthly minirhizotron observations. Fine root biomass was measured in soil cores. Fine root dynamics were controlled more by temporal, depth and root diameter factors than hy fertilization. Cumulative fine root production and mortality showed strong seasonal patterns; production was greatest in the middle of the gowing season and mortality was greatest after the growing season. Small diameter roots at shallow soil depths cycled more rapidly than larger or deeper roots. The strongest treatment effects were found in the most rapidly cycling roots. The standing crop of live roots increased with fertilizer treatment according to both minirhizotron and soil coring methods. However, production and mortality had unique treatment response patterns. Although cumulative mortality decreased in response to increased fertilization, cumulative production was intennediateat 0 kg N ha-1, lowest with 50 kg N ha-1, and highest with 200 kg N ha-1. Ahove ground growth responded positively to fertilization up to an application rate of 50 kg N ha-1, hut no further increases in growth were observed despite a threefold increase in application rate. Median fine root life span varied from 307 to over 700 days and increased with depth, diameter and nutrient availability.