Investigations of nutrient stress in some forestry areas of South Africa

Buchler, K. (Konrad) (2002-03)

Thesis (MScFor)--Stellenbosch University 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: One of the greatest .limitations to the productivity of a plantation forest is poor nutrient status of the soil. Empirical application of corrective treatments are marginally successful in some cases, but because of limited understanding of the soiltree system, most nutritional problems go unnoticed or are accepted as a conceivable growth constraint. The aim of this investigation was to identify nutrient growth problems through field observations and to determine means of confirming these nutrient imbalances. Poor and abnormal growth of pine trees in the following areas were investigated: (i) The North Eastern Cape: Ugie and Maclear Districts (ii) The Natal Midlands: Mooi River area (iii) Mpumalanga: .Graskop and Kaapsche Hoop areas (iv) Southwestern Cape: Jonkershoek Plantation The study was conducted as nursery trials at the University of Stellenbosch and field trials at the various locations. Soils from the different regions were collected and used as growing media to test the growth response of five timber species (Pinus patula, P. elliottii, P. taeda, P. greggii and Eucalyptus nitens) under controlled conditions to various nutrient treatments. Indicator plants (cauliflower and soya) were included in these bio-assays. In the field trials nutrients were applied to seedlings and established stands of various ages by means of foliar and soil application. In the nursery trials and the trials where seedlings were planted in the field, plant performance was measured by quantitative means. The reaction of established stands to nutrient treatments were however less vigorous and qualitative means (e.g. colour changes) were used for assessment. Field observations in the North Eastern Cape and the Natal Midlands indicated possible boron, iron and molybdenum deficiencies and thus the work concentrates on these elements. Foliar and soil analyses reinforced these observations with marginal to deficient levels for boron and molybdenum being detected. The yellowing of foliage during the dry season was symptomatic of ineffective nitrogen assimilation and pointed to a molybdenum deficiency while seasonal growth tip dieback, resm exudation, sinuous tree limbs and bushy trees were classical boron deficiency symptoms. Potted trials indicated positive reaction to the application of boron and molybdenum deficiency symptoms were observed on indicator plants. Conclusive evidence of a boron deficiency in some of the pot trials, the planted field trials and the tree evaluation field trials remain elusive due to toxicity experienced as a result of an over-application of the nutrient. The occurrence of multiple deficiencies (phosphorous and calcium) further complicated the findings. The Mpumalanga observations indicated severe nutrient imbalance due to manganese toxicity (strong iron antagonism). The discolouring of the foliage on some sites towards the end of the winter was thought to be an induced molybdenum deficiency on the weathered and acidic red soils. Positive reaction to molybdenum application occurred in a single. tree evaluation trial, but because of soil oxidisation during collection, the effect of manganese toxicity was diluted in the pot trials. Foliar analyses indicated that foliar application of iron was unsuccessful and that other means should be considered to ensure uptake of this nutrient.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die lae vrugbaarheid van grond is een van die grootste beperkings tot die produktiwiteit van plantasie bosbou. Empiriese toedienings van kunsmisstowwe is in sekere gevalle suksesvol tot die bekamping van onvrugbaarheid. Weens gebrekkige kennis t.o.v die grond-boom sisteem word baie van die voedingstof probleme egter onkundig oorgeslaan' of word dit as natuurlike beperking in die produksie konteks aanvaar. Die doel van hierdie ondersoek was om swak boomgroei in die veld waar te neem en om bevestigende metodes te vind waarmee hierdie probleme as voedingstoftekorte geëien kan word. Swak en abnormale boomgroei van denne is in die volgende gebiede ondersoek: (i) Die Noordoos Kaap: Ugie- en Maclear Distrikte (ii) Die Natal Middelande: Mooirivier area (iii) Mpumalanga: Graskop- en Kaapsche Hoop areas (iv) Suidwes Kaap: Jonkershoek Plantasie Die ondersoek is uitgevoer as kwekery proewe by die Universiteit van Stellenbosch en as veldproewe in die onderskeie areas. Grond is uit die verskilende gebiede versamel en as groeimeduim gebruik om die groei-reaksie van vyf verskillende houtspesies (Pinus patula, P. elliottii, P. taeda, P. greggii en Eucalyptus nitens) onder beheerde klimaatsomstandighede te ondersoek. Daar is ook gebruik gemaak van indikator spesies (blomkool en soya) vir diagnose van visuele tekort simptome. Beide saailinge en reeds gevestigde bome is in die veldproewe gebruik. Voedingstowwe is by aanplanting toegedien, of in die geval van groter bome, as blaar- of grondtoedienings. Waar dit moontlik was (meestal in die geval van die saailinge) is die reaksie op die toegediende voedingstowwe met kwantitatiewe metodes bepaal. Daar moes egter van alternatiewe kwalitatiewe metodes gebruik gemaak word om die reaksie by die ouer en groter bome te bepaal. Gevolglik is verandering in bladkleur t.o.v. 'n basiskleur onder andere as maatstaf gebruik. Waarnemings van swak boomgroei in die Noordoos Kaap en die Natal Middelande het gedui op moontlike boor, yster en/of molibdeen tekorte. Lae vlakke van hierdie elemente in blaar- en grondanalises het hierdie waarnemings bevestig. Die geel verkleuring van die naalde gedurende die droë seisoen is simptomaties van oneffektiewe stikstof assimilasie en dui op 'n molibdeen tekort. Die waarneming van seisoenale terugsterwing van groeipunte, gebuigde stamme en takke, gomuitskeiding en bome met bosagtige voorkoms is eienskappe van 'n boor tekort. In die potproewe was daar positiewe reaksie op die toediening van boor en tekort simptome van molibdeen is in die indikator plante waargeneem. In van die potproewe, die saailing veldproewe en ander veldproewe kon daar egter nie uitsluitsel tot die effektiwiteit van boor gevind word nie aangesien toedienings te heftig was en toksisiteit ervaar is. Diagnose van enkel element voedingstof tekorte word bemoeilik deur van die proewe wat ook dui op veelvoudige voedingstoftekorte (veral fosfaat en kalsium). In Mpumalanga is daar waargeneem dat drastiese voedingstof wanbalanse a.g.v. mangaan toksisiteit aanwesig is (veral 'n sterk Fe antagonisme). Die bladverkleuring op sekere proefopstande aan die einde van die winter is ook 'n aanduiding van geïnduseerde molibdeen tekorte wat op die verweerde en suur rooi gronde van die omgewing verwag kan word. Daar was dan ook positiewe reaksie op die toediening van molibdeen, hoewel slegs byeen proefopstand. Die inherente nadeel van potproewe is op die mangaanryk gronde geopenbaar deurdat belugting (gedurende grond versameling) die effek van mangaan toksisiteit verminder het. Die gebruik van blaaranalises is ook voordelig aangewend om te bepaal dat die toediening van yster as blaartoediening onsuksesvol was en dat ander metodes ondersoek moet word om opname van die element te verseker.

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