Seasonal variations of nutrient concentrations in soil and apple leaves, soil properties, weed density, and tree performance were observed for response to four groundcover managements systems: 1) mowed control; 2) plastic woven landscape fabric; 3) wood chip mulch; and 4) shredded commercial paper mulch. Soil sampled below the wood chip and shredded paper mulch treatments had higher NO3-N concentrations during the season. Soil below the shredded paper mulch had greater soil Ca, Na, and Zn than other treatments. Soil sampled below wood chip mulch had higher Mg and B. Leaf K was greater for trees grown with bark chip mulch than the other treatments. Overall, the seasonal patterns of N, P, and K decreased and had similar patterns as previously reported conventionally grown orchards. The leaf Ca and Mg increased during the season for all treatments. The concentration of other microelements had patterns similar among all treatments. Seasonal soil pH decreased during the season and was affected by treatments. During the season, water infiltration was faster into the soil covered with shredded paper mulch. The organic matter was greater in soil under the wood chip mulch at the 15-cm soil depth. Very little weed invasion occurred in the landscape fabric through August. Trees grown with shredded paper and wood chip mulch treatments had greater trunk cross-sectional area compared to trees grown under landscape fabric after 5 years; however, the latter treatment resulted in greater tree height, tree canopy spread, and fruit yield.
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