Late-season fertilization

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Late-season fertilization refers to nutrient application in the nursery during the hardening phase in fall (Oliet et al. 2013[1]). During the hardening phase in the nursery, environmental factors (e.g. short photoperiod and low temperatures) induce plant dormancy, especially in temperate and boreal enrironments (Colombo et al. 2003). Nutrient application when growth has ceased can increase nutrient content in seedlings without increasing biommass, thus promoting photosynthetic rate, root growth, and water-use efficiency (Lambers et al. 1990[2]). Indeed, late-season fertilization is considered a beneficial nursery cultural practice to promote field performance of temperate and boreal species (Grossnickle 2012[3]). However, tree species from temperate areas with mild winters, such as Mediterranean species, can maintain growth during fall in the nursery. In this context, fertilization can promote growth and reduce hardening. Thus, many nurseries in Mediterranean areas used to reduce fertilization during this phase. However, if nutrient are not applied seedling growth can lead to nutrient dilution in tissues (Boivin et al. 2002[4]). In fact, some studies reported a positive effect of late-season fertilization on nutrient reserves, frost hardinness and outplanting performance (Puertolas et al. 2003[5]; Andivia et al. 2011[6]).

  1. Oliet, J. A., Puértolas, J., Planelles, R., & Jacobs, D. F. (2013). Nutrient loading of forest tree seedlings to promote stress resistance and field performance: a Mediterranean perspective. New Forests, 44, 649-669.
  2. Lambers H, Cambridge ML, Konings H, Pons TL (1990) Causes and consequences of variation in growth rate and productivity of higher plant. SPB Academic Publishing, Netherlands, p 363
  3. Grossnickle SC (2012) Why seedlings survive: influence of plant attributes. New For 43:711–738
  4. Boivin JR, Miller BD, Timmer VR (2002) Late-season fertilization of Picea mariana seedlings under greenhouse culture: biomass and nutrient dynamics. Ann For Sci 59:255–264
  5. Puértolas J, Gil L, Pardos JA (2003) Effects of nutritional status and seedling size on field performance of Pinus halepensis planted on former arable land in the Mediterranean basin. Forestry 76:159–168
  6. Andivia, E., Fernández, M., & Vázquez-Piqué, J. (2011). Autumn fertilization of Quercus ilex ssp. ballota (Desf.) Samp. nursery seedlings: effects on morpho-physiology and field performance. Annals of Forest Science, 68, 543-553.