Diagnosis of Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.) Nutrient Deficiencies by Foliar Methods

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Virginia Tech


Quick identification of loblolly pine nutrient deficiencies has troubled foresters who wish to increase productivity through fertilization. In the past, extensive field trials were established that did not allow for quick identification of a large number of possibly limiting nutrients in individual stands. This study used single-tree fertilization with macro-nutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S) and micro-nutrients (Mn, Zn, B, Cu, Fe, Mo) to identify deficiencies using foliar techniques in one growing season. Four study sites in TX, AL, GA, and SC were established in loblolly pine plantations at or near canopy closure. Nutrient concentrations relative to the critical level, optimal nutrient ratios, DRIS methodology, vector analysis, and changes in individual fascicle and total current year foliage weight/area were used to identify deficiencies. Phosphorus was repeatedly indicated as most limiting growth at TX while K was implicated at SC. The GA site revealed multiple deficiencies including N, K, and S. The AL site revealed only a very suspect B deficiency. Critical level methodology was effective in identifying deficiencies of N, P, and K, while B, S, and Cu appeared to be available at sufficient quantities when concentrations were below the published critical levels. Concentrations of S were especially below the critical levels and not increased by fertilization indicating that the critical levels were too high. Nutrient ratio interpretability was reduced by luxury uptake of N in comparison to other deficient nutrients. DRIS methodology was hampered by the inability to create effective comparative norms. Deficiency detection with vector analysis created problems when B and Mn displayed greater uptake relative to controls than the macro-nutrients that provided relative foliage mass increases. Resulting diagnosis indicated deficiencies when B and Mn were really taken up as luxury consumption. Vector analysis may not be as effective as its individual parts. Foliage weight/area responses detected fewer deficiencies than the other techniques. No significant foliar responses were seen at the TX or AL sites. However, K at the SC site was identified as deficient by all foliage mass variables, and multiple deficiencies were detectable at the GA site.



vector analysis, DRIS, foliage mass, nutrient analysis, fertilization, micro-nutrients, Loblolly pine, critical levels