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Nutrient leaching from container-grown ornamental tree production

H. Zhu, R. H. Zondag, J. Merrick, T. Demaline, C. R. Krause
Journal of environmental horticulture 2015 v.33 no.2 pp. 76-83
Acer rubrum, container-grown plants, containers, fertilizers, fields, growing season, leachates, leaching, nitric acid, nutrient management, nutrients, ornamental trees, pH, ponds, shade trees, tree growth, wages and remuneration, wastewater irrigation, water
Economically producing marketable container-grown ornamental shade trees with minimum amounts of nutrient leachate requires better management of nutrient applications during a growing season. Fertilizer practices with 16 treatments were used to test the nutrient leachate for growing Acer rubrum ‘Red Sunset’ trees in two commercial nursery fields that were irrigated with either city or recycled pond water. Two slow-release granular fertilizers (18-5-12 and 12-0-42) were applied separately or together, by incorporation, top-dressed, or both, to a substrate for trees grown in 26 L (7 gallon) containers and placed above or below ground. Trees irrigated with pond water also received supplemental liquid nutrients throughout the growing season along with nitric acid. Compared to the practice with either top-dressed or incorporation, the practice with the incorporation and top-dressed together used doubled amounts of nutrients but did not increase tree growth and caused greater amounts of nutrients to leach through container substrates. Adding nitric acid along with supplemental liquid nutrients to container-grown tree productions had little effect on stabilizing pH value of container substrate during the growing season. Trees in the pond water field had greater caliper growth than trees in the city water field, but this practice caused greater amounts of nutrient leachate and required additional inputs with extra nutrients and labor costs throughout the growing season.