Fine root morphology and growth in response to nitrogen addition through drip fertigation in a Populus × euramericana “Guariento” plantation over multiple years

  • Xiao-Li Yan
  • Liming JiaEmail author
  • Tengfei Dai
Research Paper


Key message

Nitrogen addition through drip fertigation to a poplar plantation ( Populus × euramericana “Guariento”) promoted fine root growth only in the early period. The relationship between root growth and soil N content was positive in the first 2 years, but became negative in the third year when the soil N availability had substantially increased.


Nitrogen (N) deficiency is common in forest soils, and N addition is sometimes applied in the case of intensive plantations. There is a need to better document the impact of N addition through the high-efficiency fertilization technique on fine root morphology and growth, given their importance for the uptake of nutrients and for tree growth.


We aimed to quantitatively investigate the responses of fine roots in morphology and growth to N addition through surface drip fertigation over multiple years in a Populus × euramericana “Guariento” plantation.


A field experiment that included four drip fertigation treatments with N addition levels (0, 60, 120, and 180 kg N ha−1 year−1) was conducted for three successive years. A coring method was used to sample soils and quantify the root morphological traits and soil N content along 0–60-cm profiles.


The root biomass density, length, surface area, specific length, and tissue density were significantly higher in the N addition treatments than those in the control after the first year, but the positive effect decreased in the second year. In the third year, root biomass in the N addition treatments was even lower by 11–39% than that in the control. The relationship between root growth and soil N content was also positive in the first 2 years and negative in the third year.


N addition promoted fine root growth mainly in the shallow soil and in the early period of experiment. The relationship between root growth and soil N content became negative in the third year when the soil N availability had substantially increased. It is suggested that fine roots adjust their growth and morphology in response to N availability varying along the soil profile and with the fertilization duration.


Nitrogen addition Fine root Root morphology Vertical distribution Drip fertigation Populus × euramericana “Guariento” 



This research was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31670625 and 31700557).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of ForestryFujian Agriculture and Forestry UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Silviculture and ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina

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