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Productivity gains from weed control and fertilization of short-rotation Eucalyptus plantations in the Venezuelan Western Llanos

Carrero, Omar, Stape, Jose Luiz, Allen, Lee, Arrevillaga, María Cecilia, Ladeira, Mario
Forest ecology and management 2018 v.430 pp. 566-575
Eucalyptus, biomass, forests, intensive forestry, land use, land values, plantations, radiation use efficiency, silvicultural practices, weed control
Increasing forest site productivity is a need. Land use conflicts, high land prices, or owners’ objectives, have motivated forest managers to apply more intensive silvicultural treatments to increase forest site productivity. Understanding how intensive silvicultural practices such as weed control and fertilization + weed control affect productivity will permit managers to select the best treatment to increase it. Our objectives were: (1) to estimate the gap between current and attainable productivity of Eucalyptus plantations and (2) to determine the effect of treatment on light use and light use efficiency. To estimate the gap between current and attainable productivity, we established 53 pairs of plots, which were measured for two years. Each pair consisted of a control plot, which received the management regime that is regularly applied to the stands, and a treated plot, which received intensive silvicultural treatment (fertilization + weed control) in addition to the operational management applied to the control plots. At 25% of the sites, a third plot (weed control only) was established. Stem biomass growth in the control and treated plots was 12.4 and 14.8 Mg ha−1 yr−1, respectively. We found significant differences in light use between the control and treated plots, i.e., averages of 1344 MJ m−2 yr−1 and 1406 MJ m−2 yr−1, respectively, representing a 4.6% increase. The increase in light use efficiency (LUE) was higher and reached 20%. On average, the control plots had a LUE of 0.9 g of dry mass (DM)/MJ compared with 1.10 g DM/MJ for the treated plots. There is a considerable opportunity to increase forest productivity through fertilization, and it may be possible to obtain greater gains than those observed in this study. This information is important to estimate the expected responses to intensive silviculture and will help to decide where silvicultural treatments should be applied to maximize the gains obtained from the investment.