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The assessment of mulch sheets to inhibit competitive vegetation in tree plantations in urban and natural environment

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Weed control is often crucial for successful tree establishment. Removal or suppression of competitive vegetation has most often been done by either mowing or the use of herbicides. The Institute of Forestry and Game Management in Flanders (Belgium) has been conducting a three-year experiment (as part of a five-year programme) to assess 18 treatments for newly planted deciduous trees established on ex-agricultural sites. On grass-covered sites mortality of English oak (Quercus robur L.) decreased significantly when mulch sheets were applied. Mulch sheets increased growth of all species in a pasture. An unequivocal relation was found between the diameter of the weed-free area around the tree and the Relative Growth Rate of Common alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn.). Rigid sheets, such as those made of polypropylene could severely damage the trunk of the trees. Bark mulch decreased growth of English oak in the first year, but increased it significantly after 3 years. The application of bark mulch was time-consuming compared to the other treatments. Usage of herbicides on a clay soil was nefarious to both survival and growth of the treated trees. Mowing, often used by the Flemish Forestry Service, had no significant effect on the growth of the trees.
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Keywords: afforestation; mulching; tree establishment; weed management

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Institute of Forestry and Game Management (IFG), Geraardsbergen, Belgium

Publication date: 2002-08-01

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