(317) Effects of Different Organic Mulch on Soil Physical Characteristics and Leaf Nutrition in Apple Orchards

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  • 1 University of Arkansas, Horiculture, Fayetteville, AR, 72701

Mulch may affect soil chemistry, soil microclimate, biological communities, and tree performance. The trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of different orchard mulches on leaf nutrition, soil moisture, bulk density, root density, and water infiltration for understanding potential use in organic orchards for weed control and as a nutrient resource. Black plastic, hardwood chips, and shredded white paper were applied to three apple cultivars, `Gala', `Jonagold', and `Braeburn' on M.9 rootstocks. A control was sprayed with contact herbicide. Trees grown in hardwood mulch had the highest foliar P and K in year 3. Trees in other mulches showed no difference of leaf nutrition in year 5. All treatments had consistently higher soil moisture than control in year 1, 2, and 4. Mulch did not affect soil bulk density in year 2. The root density was lowest under black plastic mulch in year 2, but was similar in all treatments in year 3. In year 2, water infiltration was fastest in hardwood mulch and control treatments.

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