Loblolly pine growth and soil nutrient stocks eight years after forest slash incorporation
Incorporation of forest slash during stand establishment is proposed as a means of increasing soil carbon and nutrient stocks. If effective, the increased soil carbon and nutrient status may result in increased aboveground tree growth. Eight years after study installation, the impact of forest slash incorporation into the soil on soil carbon and nutrient stocks, foliar nutrients and loblolly pine growth are examined on mineral and organic sites on the North Carolina Lower Coastal Plain. Treatments include leaving forest slash on the surface and flat planting (control); V-shear and bedding (conventional), mulch forest slash followed by bedding (stripmulch) and mulch forest slash and till into the soil followed by bedding (strip mulch till). After eight years, mulching and/or tillage did not have a significant impact (p > 0.05) on soil bulk density or soil chemical properties (pH, cation exchange capacity, soil nutrients). Additionally, neither tree foliar nutrients nor stand volume were significantly impacted. However, significant effects were observed for soil phosphorus contents and stand volume between the control plots and the other treatment plots. For example, the mean stand volumes on the mineral site were 24.49 ± 1.28, 38.16 ± 2.90, 44.59 ± 3.07 and 46.96 ± 2.74 m3 ha-1 for the control, conventional, strip mulch and strip mulch till plots. These observations are more likely due to the effect of bedding rather than mulching or tillage of the forest slash. These results are consistent for the mineral and the organic sites. Considering the greater expense to install the mulch and tillage treatments, the lack of a treatment effect on soil carbon and nutrient stocks and tree growth does not justify these treatments on these sites.