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Growth response of Ficus benjamina to limited soil volume and soil dilution in a skeletal soil container study

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The interactive effects of rooting volume and nutrient availability in a skeletal soil medium designed to meet street tree and pavement needs were observed in a containerized experiment. Benjamin fig (Ficus benjamina L.) was grown in a stone-soil blended skeletal soil material (CU-Soil™) and compared to a loam soil. The same topsoil used as the soil component in the skeletal soil material was used as the sole component in the comparison soil-only treatment.

Plants grown in the skeletal soil material had reduced leaf tissue N content and depressed growth compared with plants grown in non-diluted soil. No other mineral deficiencies were found. Leaf number, chlorophyll concentration, shoot weight, and root characteristics were all affected.

Reduced growth from soil dilution could be offset by the provision of an enlarged rooting volume for root development. Large containers of skeletal soil were observed to have smaller root systems compared to equivalent net volumes of loam soil at the first two harvest dates of the study. By the end of the study, the large containers of skeletal soil were observed to have developed larger root systems compared to equivalent net volumes of loam soil; resulting in comparable leaf N levels and total plant dry matter. Plants in skeletal soil had lower shoot: root ratios at the end of the study. Investing resources to further root growth in times of nutrient shortages is a probable plant reaction as evidenced by differences in specific root length between treatments. The study allowed a method for directly partitioning the containerization effect by having equivalent amounts of soil over two volumes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National Parks Board, Singapore 2: Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers University Cook College, NJ, USA 3: Department of Horticulture, Cornell University, NY, USA

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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