Amending Soils with Hydrogels Increases the Biomass of Nine Tree Species under Non-water Stress Conditions
Orikiriza, Lawrence J. B.
Kabasa, John David
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The classical aim of the application of super absorbent polyacrylate (SAPs) hydrogels is the prolonging of plant survival under water stress. Their effect on plant growth during non-water stress conditions is not known. This study examined the root and shoot biomass of seedlings of nine tree species; Eucalyptus grandis, Eucalyptus citriodora, Pinus caribaea, Araucaria cunninghamii, Melia volkensii, Grevillea robusta, Azadirachta indica, Maesopsis eminii and Terminalia superba. The seedlings were potted in five soil types; sand, sandy loam, loam, silt loam and clay. These were amended at two hydrogel levels: 0.2 and 0.4% w/w and grown under controlled conditions in a green house. Root and shoot growth responses of the seedlings were determined by measuring the dry weight of the roots, stems, leaves and twigs. The addition of either 0.2 or 0.4% hydrogel to the five soil types resulted in a significant increase of the root dry weight (p a 0.001) in eight tree species compared to the controls after 8 wk of routine watering. Also, the dry weight of stems and leaves and twigs were significantly (p a 0.001)higher in the nine tree species potted in hydrogel amended soil types than in the hydrogel free controls. These results suggested that hydrogel amendment enhances the efficiency of water uptake and utilization of photosynthates of plants grown in soils which have water contents close to field capacity.