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Nutrient uptake by hybrid poplar in competition with weed species under growth chamber and field conditions using the Soil Supply and Nutrient Demand (SSAND) model



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Success of hybrid poplar plantations will rely on the efficient management of nutrients and weeds. Relatively little is known about the root uptake characteristics of hybrid poplar and weeds, their belowground interactions and particularly, the quantitative understanding of nutrient uptake using mechanistic models under weed-competing conditions. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to investigate the effects of dandelion and quackgrass on the growth of hybrid poplar, to establish their root uptake characteristics and to quantify their nutrient uptake using the soil supply and nutrient demand (SSAND) model. In a pot study, hybrid poplar stem height, root collar diameter, shoot and root biomass, root length, and N, P and K uptake significantly decreased in the presence of dandelion and quackgrass weeds. Similar weed competition effects on growth of hybrid poplar were also observed in the field at the Pasture and Alfalfa sites where hybrid poplar was grown with and without weeds for 50, 79 and 100 days. In a hydroponic experiment, Imax values for NH4-N, NO3-N, P and K varied significantly among hybrid poplar seedlings and dandelion and quackgrass weed species and was greatest for dandelion followed by hybrid poplar and then quackgrass. The Km values were lowest for quackgrass compared to the other plant species for all of the nutrients. Simulation results from the SSAND model for the pot study showed that N uptake was underpredicted in hybrid poplar by 58 to 73%, depending upon soil type and weed treatment. Incorporation of N mineralization as a model input improve the hybrid poplar N uptake predictions by 24 and 67% in the Pasture and Alfalfa soil, respectively, when grown without weeds. SSAND model underestimated P uptake by 84-89% and overestimated K uptake by 28 to 59% for hybrid poplar depending upon the soil type and weed treatment. In the field, N uptake by hybrid poplar was in close agreement to measured N uptake in the control treatment. N uptake was greatly underestimated for both hybrid poplar and weeds in the weed treatment. Including changing water content greatly improves the N uptake by hybrid poplar and weeds in weed treatments. Results from this study suggest weed control is an essential practice to establish successful hybrid poplar plantations. Also, SSAND model can be an effective tool for predicting the nutrient uptake under two plant species competing environment if all the processes of nutrient supply are adequately described in the model.



hybrid poplar, weed competition, dandelion, quackgrass, Michaelis-Menten kinetics, nutrient uptake modelling, SSAND model



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Soil Science


Soil Science


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