Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Managing nutrient regimes improves seedling root-growth potential of framework banksia-woodland species

Erin Griffiths A B and Jason C. Stevens A B C

A Science Directorate, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, West Perth, WA 6005, Australia.

B School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: jason.stevens@bgpa.wa.gov.au

Australian Journal of Botany 61(8) 600-610 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT13181
Submitted: 12 July 2013  Accepted: 18 December 2013   Published: 21 March 2014

Abstract

Limited success of restoring framework banksia-woodland species has been attributed to the failure of seedlings to establish deep root systems before the onset of the summer drought. The present glasshouse study investigated how optimising nutrient application during nursery production may increase new-root production after outplanting. Two experimental streams were established to (1) optimise nutrient application rates during nursery production and (2) utilise nutrient-loading techniques to improve root production of Banksia menziesii R.Br., Banksia attenuata R.Br. and Eucalyptus todtiana F.Muell after outplanting. Optimal nutrient-application rates were determined by measuring plant growth and internal nutrient responses to eight application levels of slow-release fertiliser (0–18 kg m–3, nitrogen (N) : phosphorus (P) : potassium (K) = 17 : 1.6 : 8.7). Nutrient-loading treatments utilised seedlings that had been grown under common industry fertiliser conditions (3 kg m–3 native Osmocote, N : P : K = 17 : 1.6 : 8.7) supplied with ‘low’ or ‘high’ loading doses of liquid Thrive continuously over 6 weeks, immediately before outplanting. Seedlings from both experiments were then outplanted to 1-m-deep poly-pipe tubes containing habitat soil. After 12 weeks, plants were harvested and new-root production and shoot growth were measured. Optimal concentrations of slow-release fertiliser for maximum outplanting success as indicated by increased root investment (root : shoot ratio and new-root production) were 8–12 kg m–3 for all species. Nutrient loading increased N and P concentrations of plants by up to 80% and 127%, respectively, by luxury nutrient consumption, and after planting, nutrient-loaded seedlings produced 1.5-fold the biomass of conventionally fertilised seedlings, this being the result of greater root productivity. In conclusion, optimising nursery nutrient regimes for framework species may increase root-growth potential, assisting in improving plant establishment in restoration programs.

Additional keywords: fertiliser, nursery production, nutrient loading, restoration.


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