Growth and Wood Properties of Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) in Nursing Mixtures Established on Nitrogen-deficient Mineral Soils
Rate of growth and wood properties of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) were investigated in triplet mixtures with lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Loud.) (Alaskan provenance) and Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi (Lamb.) Carr.), established on nitrogen-deficient, iron pan soils. These "nursing" mixtures were compared with pure stands of Sitka spruce that had been either regularly or periodically fertilized with nitrogen. Japanese larch promoted a growth rate in Sitka spruce greater than that achieved in the lodgepole pine-nursed spruce and equivalent to the two pure spruce treatments over the duration of the experiment (current age 28 yrs). Growth of regularly fertilized pure Sitka spruce was not significantly greater than that of periodically fertilized pure spruce. Alaskan lodgepole pine controlled branch size on the lower part of the spruce stems more effectively than the other treatments, although this may have been a function of tree size. Branch characteristics of Japanese larch-nursed spruce, however, were similar to those of the pure spruce treatments. Japanese larch caused an imbalance in crown development in the spruce, although it is unclear from the present study whether this will have an influence on stem and wood quality by the end of the rotation. Overall, the evidence from this study suggests that Japanese larch is an effective nurse of Sitka spruce on nitrogen-deficient iron pans, maintaining a rate of growth similar to that of pure Sitka spruce periodically fertilized with nitrogen and higher than that observed in spruce nursed by Alaskan lodgepole pine.
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