Combining innovative mulches and soil conditioners in mountain afforestation with ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) in the Pyrenees (NE Spain)

  • Jaime Coello Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia
  • Míriam Piqué Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia (CTFC)
  • Pere Rovira Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia (CTFC)
  • Carla Fuentes Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia (CTFC)
  • Aitor Ameztegui Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia (CTFC); Department of Agriculture and Forest Engineering (EAGROF), University of Lleida, Lleida (Spain)
Keywords: ecotechnology, groundcovers, reforestation, seedling performance, restoration, water-absorbing polymer, weed


Aim of study: To assess the effectiveness for improving early seedling performance of the individual and combined application of (i) various doses of an innovative soil conditioner including polyacrylamide-free super-absorbent polymers, fertilizers, root precursors and humic acids; and (ii) innovative mulches based on renewable-biodegradable or recycled raw materials. The assessment was carried out in comparison with reference (commercial) soil conditioners and mulches.

Area of study: Upper montane afforestation site located at 1,430 m altitude in the southern Pyrenees (NE Spain).

Material and methods: We studied the effect of 15 treatments (various combinations of soil conditioners and mulches) on mountain ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.), testing survival, diameter and height growth and water and nutrient status during two growing seasons (2014-2015). We also assessed mulch durability during 2014-2016.

Main results: The innovative soil conditioner improved diameter and height seedling growth (92% and 72% respectively) and water and nutrient status. The 40 g/seedling dosage was more cost-effective than the 20 and 80 g/seedling doses. The new formulation performed better in general than the commercial formulation. Mulches led to slight gains compared to control seedlings, and there were no major differences between the mulch models. The combined application of soil conditioners and mulches was not of particular interest.

Research highlights: Soil conditioners consisting of synergic mixtures of water super-absorbent polymers, fertilizers, root growth precursors and humic acids can improve early seedling performance in coarse-textured, stony soils in montane conditions. Small mulches may be only of limited interest as long as weed competitiveness is poor.

Keywords: ecotechnology; groundcovers; reforestation; seedling performance; restoration; water super-absorbent polymer; weed.

Abbreviations used: GSn, growing season number ‘n’; leaf water potential, LWP; water super-absorbent polymers, SAP; soil conditioner with water super-absorbent polymers, SCwSAP; Soil Plant Analysis Development, SPAD.


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Author Biography

Jaime Coello, Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia

PhD, Forest Engineer - Researcher 

Sustainable Forest Management Unit


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How to Cite
Coello, J., Piqué, M., Rovira, P., Fuentes, C., & Ameztegui, A. (2018). Combining innovative mulches and soil conditioners in mountain afforestation with ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) in the Pyrenees (NE Spain). Forest Systems, 27(3), e017.
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