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Effects of Hydrogels on Tree Seedling Performance in Temperate Soils before and after Water Stress

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Author(s): Lawrence J. B. Orikiriza | Hillary Agaba | Gerald Eilu | John D. Kabasa | Martin Worbes | Aloys Hüttermann

Journal: Journal of Environmental Protection
ISSN 2152-2197

Volume: 04;
Issue: 07;
Start page: 713;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Desiccation | Non-Water Stress | SAPs | Soil Amendment | Tree Species

ABSTRACT
Super Absorbent Polyacrylate (SAP) hydrogels absorb and store water thereby aiding plant establishment when incurporated in the soil. The effect of cross-linked SAP hydrogel amendment on the performance of tree seedlings of Picea abies, Pinus sylivestris and Fagus sylvatica grown in temperate soils under water stress and non-water stress periods was investigated in a green house. The objective was to compare the root and shoot biomass of seedlings of the three species grown in sand, loam and clay soils amended with 0.4% w/w hydrogel in non water stress conditions as well as survival, root and shoot biomass after subjection to water stress. The seedlings were grown for 16 weeks, harvested and shoot as well as root biomass determined before water stress. The seedlings were also subjected to water stress and their biomass assessed at death following the water stress. The results showed that root and shoot biomass were generally higher in hydrogel amended soils compared to the controls. Root and shoot biomass of Fagus sylvatica was lower compared to Picea abies and Pinus sylivestris before water stress. The 0.4% hydrogel amendment significantly increased species’ survival in the different soils studied. Although root biomass was higher in hydrogel amended sandy soil compared to other soils, P. sylivestris and F. sylvatica shoot biomass were higher in hydrogel amended clay and loam soils compared to the sandy soil after water stress. Biomass was higher in sand compared to loam and clay soils under non-water and water stressed conditions. Since SAP hydrogel amendment improved the survival and biomass production of tree seedlings before and after water stress, use of SAPs could be promoted to enhance seedling production in water stress and non-water stress environments.
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