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Lime Rate Affects Substrate pH and Container-grown Birch Trees

Altland, James E.
Communications in soil science and plant analysis 2019 v.50 no.1 pp. 93-101
Betula nigra, Pinus, Sphagnum, bark, chlorophyll, container-grown plants, containers, dolomitic limestone, growth and development, landscapes, leachates, leaves, nutrient content, nutrient deficiencies, pH, soil, sulfur, tree growth, trees
Nursery production of birch (Betula nigra L.) trees commonly occurs in containers using a soilless substrate such as pine bark or peat moss. Birch trees have been reported to suffer from pH-induced micronutrient deficiencies in landscapes; thus, they are recommended to be planted in low-pH soils (<6.5). Little research has addressed the influence of substrate pH on birch trees during container production. Therefore, the objective of this research was to determine if substrate pH influences birch tree growth and development. Birch (Betula nigra ‘NBMTF’) liners were transplanted into 11.4 L plastic nursery containers filled with an 80 pine bark: 20 sphagnum peat moss (v:v) amended with either 0.6 kg.m⁻³ of elemental sulfur (S) or 0, 1.8, 3.5, or 7.1 kg.m⁻³ dolomitic lime. Substrate pH ranged from 4.8 to 7.3. There were only a few and minor differences in leaf chlorophyll content and no differences in plant growth. Differences in leachate and plant tissue nutrient concentration occurred for some elements, although these differences were not enough to affect plant growth. Container-grown birch trees can be grown over a wide range of substrate pH (4.8 to 7.3) with little or no effect on their growth.