Tree growth and management in Ugandan agroforestry systems: effects of root pruning on tree growth and crop yield
Wajja-Musukwe, Tellie-Nelson; Wilson, Julia; Sprent, Janet I.; Ong, Chin K.; Deans, J. Douglas; Okorio, John. 2008 Tree growth and management in Ugandan agroforestry systems: effects of root pruning on tree growth and crop yield. Tree Physiology, 28 (2). 233 -242. 10.1093/treephys/28.2.233Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
Tree root pruning is a potential tool for managing below-ground competition when trees and crops are grown together in agroforestry systems. This study investigates its effects on growth and root distribution of Alnus acuminata (HB & K), Casuarina equisetifolia (L), Grevillea robusta (A. Cunn. ex R. Br), Maesopsis eminii (Engl.), and Markhamia lutea (Benth.) K. Schum. and on yield of adjacent crops in sub-humid Uganda. The trees were 3 years old at the commencement of the study, and most species were competing strongly with crops. Tree roots were pruned 41 months after planting by cutting and back-filling a trench to a depth of 0.3 m, at a distance of 0.3 m from the trees, on one side of the tree row. The trench was re-opened and roots re-cut at 50 and 62 months after planting. Effects on tree growth and root distribution were assessed over a 3 year period, and crop yield after the third root pruning at 62 months is reported here. Overall, root pruning had only a slight effect on tree growth: height growth was unaffected and diameter growth was reduced by only 4 %. A substantial amount of root re-growth was observed by 11 months after pruning. Tree species varied in the number and distribution of their roots, and Casuarina and Markhamia had considerably more roots per unit of trunk volume than the other tree species, especially in the surface soil layers. Casuarina and Maesopsis were the most competitive tree species with crops and Grevillea and Markhamia the least. Crop yield data provides strong evidence of the redistribution of root activity following root pruning, so that competition increased on the unpruned side of tree rows. Thus, one-sided root pruning will only be of use to farmers in a few circumstances. Key words: Alnus acuminata, Casuarina equisetifolia, Grevillea robusta, Maesopsis eminii, Markhamia lutea, root distribution, root function
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