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Deep Planting Has No Short- or Long-Term Effect on the Survival and Growth of White Spruce, Black Spruce, and Jack Pine

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Although studies in the past have reported that the deeper planting of conifers has no effect on seedling performance, most planting guidelines in use today still recommend that seedlings be planted to the rootcollar. Past studies were mostly observational, used bareroot seedlings, and often reported early results from just one or two depths of planting treatments. Most of the results available regarding planting depth for boreal species are anecdotal, although they are planted by the hundreds of millions every year. The present study reports no short-term (1 year) or long-term (15 to 19 years) negative effect of planting depth on the survival and height and diameter growth of black spruce, white spruce, and jack pine seedlings over three large, replicated experiments in the boreal forest of eastern and northern Quebec (eastern Canada). Four different depth treatments were compared, from manual planting at the rootcollar to the deepest mechanical planting treatment at 10 cm or more, making this the largest, longest-lasting study of its kind. Although, as expected, important differences in growth were present between species, all three commonly planted conifers reacted similarly to the planting depth treatments (no effect). This result can in part be attributed to an almost perfect control of frost heaving in the deepest two treatments. Planting depth effects were assessed using analysis of variance, multiple Tukey honestly significant difference, and uncorrected pairwise one-tailed t-tests to increase the probability of detecting a negative effect. Absolute differences and effect sizes (generally small and often positive with greater depths) were also analyzed.

Keywords: Picea glauca; Picea mariana; Pinus banksiana; frost heaving; planting depth; reforestation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-09-01

More about this publication?
  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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