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Inter-annual effects of potassium/sodium fertilization and water deficit on wood quality of Eucalyptus grandis trees over a full rotation

Chambi Legoas R., Chaix G., Resende Castro V., Pires Franco M., Tomazello Filho M.. 2021. Forest Ecology and Management, 496 : 10 p..

DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119415

In Brazil, most Eucalyptus plantations are located in regions experiencing periods of water shortage, where fertilizers such as potassium (K) are intensively used to achieve high productivity. Recently, sodium (Na) has also been considered a potential nutrient in K-deficient soils. K and Na supply can increase water stress in Eucalyptus grandis trees, which could negatively impact forest productivity over prolonged droughts. Wood properties are determinants of the quality and yield of products. They are important factors to consider when measuring the impacts of silvicultural practices and water deficit on forest productivity. However, alterations in wood properties due to interactions between K/Na fertilization, water availability, and stand age are not well documented. Through annual sampling of E. grandis trees throughout a complete rotation (6 years) in Brazil, we evaluated the interactive effects of K/Na fertilization, water availability, and stand age on stem volume, sapwood/heartwood ratio, wood density, fiber, and vessel features. We also evaluated the relationships between growth rate, wood density, and fiber and vessel features. The split-plot experimental design consisted of two water supply regimes (37% throughfall reduction versus undisturbed throughfall) and three fertilization regimes (K, Na, and control). Until six years of age, K and Na fertilization increased stem volume by 3 and 2-fold, respectively, and only K-fertilized trees affected stem volume by 37% throughfall reduction. Both K and Na detrimentally affected wood density and beneficially affected fiber length. The sapwood/heartwood ratio was highly and negatively related to the growth rate of trees. Wall thickness was not affected by either K or Na. As expected, K and Na affected vessel size due to an increase in basal area growth. However, the effects of Na were more pronounced than those of K. Significant interactions between fertilization and water availability suggest that, under water deficit, wood density will not be affected by K fertilization. In contrast, the effect of Na and control treatments were invariable regardless of water availability. The effects of fertilization on wood properties changed over time, with non-significant effects in the first year and stronger effects from two years of age of trees. The variations in wood density were strongly related to variations in the fiber wall thickness. High increases in basal area growth promoted by K and Na were not related to significant decreases in wood density, but they were related to increases in fiber length. These findings highlight the significant effects of K addition on stem volume without significant losses in wood quality, even under water stress over a complete rotation. The negative impacts observed on wood density and lower productivity in commercial E. grandis plantations with the use of Na as a substitute for K should be considered.

Mots-clés : fertilisation; eucalyptus grandis; stress dû à la sécheresse; potassium; sodium; rotation culturale; rendement; structure du bois; propriété du bois; brésil

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