Hybrid poplar is traditionally established using dormant stem cuttings in tilled soils followed by chemical or mechanical weed control. In 1996, we initiated a study to evaluate the effects of site preparation and four weed control treatments on growth and morphology of three hybrid poplar clones established on a 0.2-ha tall fescue field in southern Illinois. Site preparation included application of 2000 kg/ha of 12N-12P-12K. The experiment was arranged as a split-split plot. Main plots were closely mowed tall fescue or tilled to remove the grass sod. Within each main plot, weed control treatments were applied to 1-m wide strips in rows 2.4 m apart. Weed control treatments included porous black film, solid black film, and solid white film, and a control treatment of 3.7 L/ha of glyphosate applied each spring. On 15 Apr. 1996, three 25-cm-long dormant stem cuttings from each of three clones were randomly planted 15 cm deep every 1.8 m within each row. Clonal differences existed after the first year for survival, number of stems, stem height, stem basal diameter, and stem volume, but not for number and total length of lateral branches. Nearly all tree growth measurements analyzed during the first 3 years had a highly significant interaction between type of site preparation and method of weed control. With polyethylene films, tree survival exceeded 90% on both the tilled ground and grass sod sites after 3 years; however, with the herbicide treatment survival averaged only 18% in the grass sod and 51% in tilled soil. Excluding the herbicide treatment, tree growth was better in the grass sod than in the tilled soil. Tree growth using porous black polyethylene film was usually less than that with either of the two solid polyethylene films. The best tree growth was found with a grass sod and solid white polyethylene film for weed control.
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