04: Mineral nutrition as an index of seedling quality
Seedling quality, when defined as outplanting performance, is logically related to its mineral nutrient status. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus supply the building materials for new growth and newlyplanted seedlings must rely on a supply of stored nutrients until they are established in the field. Seedling nutrient status can be inferred indirectly by foliage color or nursery fertilization practices, but chemical tissue analysis is the only practical way of measuring nutrient levels in seedling tissue. Analytical techniques allow rapid and precise determination of plant nutrient levels, but interpretation of these tests can be difficult without good reference standards. The relationship between outplanting survival and seedling nutrient status is not clearcut because of variation due to storage, handling and outplanting site differences. .Relationships between foliar nitrogen levels and height growth after outplanting, however, are more positive. Although an adequate mineral nutrient level is no guarantee of vitality, the relationship between seedling nutrient status and growth after outplanting could be improved by including some measure of seedling size in the prediction equation. Combining seedling nutrient analysis and some measure of seedling vigor, such as a test of root growth capacity, could prove to be an excellent way to predict outplanting performance.
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Author(s): Thomas D. Landis