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Field Note: Foliar Sulfate-Sulfur as a Nutrient Diagnostic Tool for Interior Douglas-Fir

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Foliar diagnostic tools have been used with varying success to identify limiting nutrients in Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirab.] Franco var. glauca [Beissn.] Franco). The mechanisms of sulfur and nitrogen metabolism in plants enable the measurement of nutrient fractions that may yield more informative results. Measurements of sulfate-sulfur in conifer foliage have shown potential as a diagnostic tool for predicting tree response to nitrogen fertilization. Using archived samples and data from previously established fertilizer trials in northern Idaho, we tested the relationship between foliar sulfate-sulfur concentrations in unfertilized trees and 2-year growth response to nitrogen fertilization in Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (P. menziesii [Mirab.] Franco var. glauca [Beissn.] Franco). Sulfate-sulfur concentrations explained 42% of the variability in growth response, compared with 17% for the total nitrogen to sulfur ratio. Sulfate-sulfur concentrations were variable within sites, presenting a challenge to the feasibility of sampling. Our results suggest that further controlled research would aid in development of sulfate-sulfur as a foliar diagnostic tool.

Keywords: fertilizer trials; foliar diagnostics; nutrient management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-07-01

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  • 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 Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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