The role of soil characteristics, soil tillage and drip irrigation in the timber production of a wild cherry orchard under Mediterranean conditions
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Over the last decade high-quality timber plantations have increased in Europe because of the constanthigh market price of timber and economical incentives from the EU. These latter are mainly due to timberplantations’ role in CO2capture. Noble wood plantations have also been established in Mediterraneanareas, but many of them suffer from low growth rates due to deficient plantation management and/ornon-optimal environmental conditions. Furthermore, little information exists about soil and water man-agement in these plantations and how different soil characteristics may affect management results. Inthis study, a trial was established in a pure wild cherry plantation under Mediterranean conditions. Thetrial evaluated the effects that soil type (low soil quality versus good performance for woody crops), soilmanagement (soil tillage versus no tillage), irrigation regime (drip irrigation versus no irrigation) andtheir interactions may have on wood production. Soil water content and the spontaneous vegetation thatappeared in the alleys of the no-tillage treatments were also measured.The results showed that sandy-clay-loam soil with a water-holding capacity of 101.5 ± 5.2 mm had 65%more wood volume increase during the study period than sandy-loam soil with a water-holding capacityof 37.9 ± 8.0 mm. Conventional tillage or zero tillage with the presence of spontaneous vegetation did notdiffer significantly in wood volume increment, regardless of the type of soil. Although soil water contentwas significantly increased by tillage in sandy-loam soil, this effect was not enough to increase tree woodvolume. On the other hand, the application of drip irrigation did increase wood production by up to 50%.Therefore, 10 years less on the plantation’s rotation length can be anticipated when applying irrigation:from 40 to 30 years (sandy–clay–loam soil) and from 56 to 46 years (sandy-loam soil).In conclusion, deep soil characterization of the site is essential before deciding whether to develop aplantation of this type in areas under soil water content limitations caused by deficient soil structureand texture. In addition, our results show important savings can be made by reducing soil tillage, as lesstillage leads to greater ground cover and biodiversity. Further investigations are required to examinehow long-lasting the effects are and what other benefits can be expected when this type of plantation ismanaged in a more sustainable way.
CitationMolina, A., Josa, R., Mas, M.T., Verdu, AMC., Llorens, P., ARANDA, X., Savé, R., Biel, C. The role of soil characteristics, soil tillage and drip irrigation in the timber production of a wild cherry orchard under Mediterranean conditions. "European journal of agronomy", Gener 2016, vol. 72, p. 20-27.
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