Mouse ear disorder on container-grown river birch (Betulanigra L.) is a national problem caused by a deficiency of nickel. Symptomatic plants have leaves which are small, wrinkled, darker green, cupped, and have necrotic margins. Research showed that mouse ear could be cured by applications of nickel sulfate (Ruter, 2004). Further research was needed to determine optimal rates of application for sprays and drenches and to determine if phytotoxicity occurs at high rates. A study was initiated at a nursery in South Georgia on 25 June 2003, using river birch in their second growing season in #15 containers. Plants were selected for uniformity of mouse ear disorder. Treatments included a control, urea (0.24 g·L-1) + surfactant (1.0 mL·L-1), 250, 500, 750, and 1000 mg·L-1 nickel sulfate sprays, and substrate drenches applied at 150 and 300 mg of Ni/pot. After 30 days, all plants treated with nickel sulfate had 100% normal growth, except the 150 mg of Ni/pot drench, which had 79% of the canopy showing normal growth. No phytotoxicity was noted. Plants receiving foliar sprays had a 66% to 72% increase in leaf area, a 64% to 68% increase in leaf dry mass, a 31% to 44% increase in stem length, and a 9% to 17% increase in specific leaf area compared to nontreated plants. Drench treatments increased leaf area up to 62%, leaf dry mass to 55% and stem length up to 29% over control plants. Nickel in the foliage of nontreated plants was 2.3 mg·kg-1. For the spray treatments, foliar Ni ranged from 5.5 mg·kg-1 for the 250 mg·L-1 treatment to 9.3 mg·kg-1 for the 1000 mg·L-1 treatment. Though plants at the high rate of drench treatment resumed normal growth, foliar Ni levels were not different from control plants. In general, if plants were treated with Ni, then foliar B, Fe, and Zn decreased.
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