(38) Planting Depth and Tree Performance

in HortScience
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  • 1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, Urbana, IL, 61801

Growers, nurseries, landscape contractors and installers, and those responsible for maintenance have observed a trend that trees are too deep within the root ball. This study addresses the relationship between planting depth and its effect on tree survival, root growth, root architecture, and caliper growth. The experiment was initiated to determine the effect of planting depth on nursery-grown trees. Three-year-old, 2.1–2.7 m, bare-root liners of Acer platanoides `Emerald Lustre', Fraxinus americana `Autumn Purple', Fraxinus pennsylvanica `Patmore', and Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis `Shade Master' were planted in April 2004 in a completely randomized design with 20 replications per treatment per species. The trees were selected so that the distance between the graft union and the trunk flare was consistent. Trees were planted with the graft union 15.2 cm below the soil surface, or with the base of the graft union at the finished grade or with the trunk flare at the finished grade. The trees were grown in a nursery field setting with minimal supplemental watering. There were no differences in stem caliper growth at the end of two seasons in any of the four species. Root dry mass, stem elongation, and rooting structure were determined on a representative sample of trees while others were planted into the landscape for a long-term study of the effects of the original planting depth on landscape performance.

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