Growth, allocation and leaf gas exchanges of hybrid poplar plants in their establishment phase on previously forested sites: effect of different vegetation management techniques
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The effect of different vegetation control methods (mowing and cultivation between plantation rows, herbicide application and cover plant sowing) on hybrid poplar (P. maximowiczii $\times$ balsamifera) growth, biomass allocation and leaf carbon assimilation was investigated in two plantations (1- and 2-year-old) established in previously forested sites of south-eastern Québec. Any vegetation control treatment applied the same year in which the plantation was established did not have an effect on hybrid poplar aboveground growth. However significant differences among treatments were observed belowground, where the removal of the competing vegetation at the tree base increased the fine root:leaf biomass ratio of plants, thus probably facilitating their establishment. In contrast, 2-year-old plants grew better when treated with herbicides, but no positive effect of the mechanical treatments was detected. In both sites, trees growing on herbicide-treated plots showed considerably higher leaf carbon assimilation and leaf N concentration which were both strongly correlated. We conclude that a strong vegetation competition for nutrients takes effect on hybrid poplar plantations on previously forested sites since there was no water shortage for any treatment during the study period.