INFLUENCE OF ORCHARD-FLOOR VEGETATION MANAGEMENT ON APPLE TREE GROWTH, NUTRIENT UPTAKE AND LEAF TRANSPIRATION RATES

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  • 1 Department of Pomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

Eight vegetation management systems (VMS) were evaluated over four years in a newly planted apple site. VMS treatments included pre- and post-emergence herbicide strips, a close-mowed sodgrass, a growth-suppressed (maleic-hydrazide) sodgrass, a crownvetch “living mulch,” clean cultivation, and straw mulch. Soil moisture supply was highest under the straw mulch and lowest under crownvetch, and varied inversely with groundcover biomass. Leaf N was deficient in tress in both sodgrass VMS, and increased by the lequme “living mulch” only after four years. Leaf Cu was lowest, and appeared to limit tree growth in VMS with prolonged soil moisture deficits. No significant differences were observed in leaf transpiration over a broad range (10 to 700 kPa) of soil matric tension. Cumulative trunk crosssectional area was greatest in straw-mulched trees and least in sodgrass and crownvetch VMS. The optimal soil matric tension for nutrient uptake and tree growth appeared to be 175 to 200 kPa in this orchard. Increasing the width of glyphosate herbicide strips from 1.5 to 2.5 m in tree rows did not improve tree growth, nutritional status or fruit yield.

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