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Root characteristics and growth potential of container and bare-root seedlings of red oak (Quercus rubra L.) in Ontario, Canada

Wilson, Edward R., Vitols, Kristjan C., Park, Andrew
New forests 2007 v.34 no.2 pp. 163-176
Quercus rubra, bare root stock, dieback, growing season, mortality, planting, production technology, root systems, roots, seedlings, shoots, Ontario
Root characteristics and field performance of container and bare-root seedlings of red oak (Quercus rubra L.) were compared during the first growing season after planting. Sixty seedlings of each stock type were planted on a clearfell and weed-free site near Restoule, Ontario. Twenty-four additional seedlings from each stock type were compared at the start of the study in terms of shoot and root parameters. Measurement of root and shoot parameters were repeated at three dates during the first growing season in the field. The root systems of container stock had a larger number of first order lateral long roots and were significantly more fibrous than bare-root stock. These differences were sustained throughout the first growing season. In terms of field performance, container seedlings had 100% survival and achieved significant increases in both biomass and shoot extension. Bare-root seedlings suffered 25% mortality, significant shoot dieback and more variable growth. The mean relative growth rate (RGR) of container seedlings increased throughout the study period to a maximum of 30 mg/g/day, whereas the mean RGR of bare-root stock remained close to or below zero. Overall, the container seedlings proved less prone to transplanting shock than the bare-root seedlings, most likely due to favourable root architecture and the pattern of root development. Further work may be warranted in container design, growing regimes and root architecture to fully realise the potential of container systems for the production of high quality red oak seedlings across a range of site conditions.