Maximizing seedling outplanting success with organic soil amendments

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Deborah Page-Dumroese

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Soil organic matter (SOM) is critical for ensuring both forest soil and tree health. Although soil organic matter represents only 5% of the soil, it is critical for cation exchange capacity, water and nutrient retention, and overall site productivity.  However, increased populations and a changing climate have contributed to the loss or degradation of SOM. It is critical to understand how soil texture and the type of organic amendment may interact to alter soil processes before planting for site restoration.  Restoring organic carbon can help reverse soil productivity declines and improve plant establishment and growth. Application of organic matter to soils can supply needed plant nutrients and can improve water holding capacity to make soils more resilient to drought or flooding. Biosolids or manure additions rapidly release nutrients and can enhance plant growth in the short-term. Biochar additions, while low in nutrients, offer a stable source of soil carbon and can increase water and nutrient holding capacity. Sawdust or wood chips is another option for amending forest sites, but it is often surface applied and can decompose quickly. Organic amendments are more effective at increasing understory plant production rather than tree seedling or older tree growth, but the alteration of water holding capacity may reduce the risk of insect or disease attack.

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Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration