Mechanical resistance by an ectorganic soil layer on roo development of seedling Pinus sylvestris.

J. den Ouden, D. Vogels

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    8 Citations (Scopus)


    We investigated early root development of Pinus sylvestris seedlings in relation to bulk density and natural particle layering in an ectorganic soil layer from a bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) stand. Responses in root development to two levels of bulk density (0.07 and 0.15 g/cm3) in mixed bracken substrate were compared with effects in peat of similar bulk densities, and in sand of three different bulk densities (0.37, 0.52, and 0.67 g/cm3). The effect on root growth of the natural horizontal layering of the organic particles was examined by comparing intact with mixed ectorganic bracken soil profiles of similar bulk densities (resp. 0.09 and 0.07 g/cm3). Root length growth was significantly reduced in the organic and sandy substrates of high bulk density. Root diameter was not affected by bulk density in the organic substrate, but increased with higher bulk density in sand. Preservation of horizontal layering in the intact ectorganic profile significantly reduced root length compared with mixed substrate of similar bulk density. Roots growing in high bulk density, and intact, organic substrate showed increased twisting, which resulted in a smaller depth reached by the root relative to total root length produced. In sand, root twisting did not change with increased bulk density. It is suggested that roots growing through organic substrate follow a path of least resistance. This implies that organic particle size and orientation are more important in determining root development than bulk density. This study points out that the natural layering of organic particles presents another constraint on the establishment of plant species in sites with a well-developed ectorganic soil layer. Disturbance of this layer may therefore enhance establishment of seedlings by reducing the mechanical resistance of the ectorganic soil profile to developing seedling roots.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-217
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


    • Ectorganic soil profile
    • Mechanical resistance
    • Pinus sylvestris
    • Pteridium aquilinum
    • Root development
    • Seedling establishment


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