New Forests

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 185–195 | Cite as

Sulfometuron methyl influences seedling growth and leaf function of three conifer species

  • Nathan D. Robertson
  • Anthony S. Davis


Seedling growth and gas exchange responses were measured for two potted seedling trials testing herbicide phytotoxicity to three important tree species of the Inland Northwest, USA. Media-filled pots were treated with sulfometuron methyl (Oust®) in varying concentrations and planted with seedlings of Larix occidentalis Nutt., Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca (Beissn.) Franco, and Pinus monticola Dougl. ex D. Don. Seedlings were grown in two trials to determine the effects of two important residue breakdown factors, substrate moisture and pH, relative to that of herbicide application rate on seedling health. Changes in seedling height, root-collar diameter, and root volume were morphologic variables of interest, and physiological variables measured were net photosynthetic assimilation, stomatal conductance, and transpiration rate. While three levels of media moisture and four levels of media pH had no effect on seedling performance, most growth and leaf function variables were hindered across application rate treatments of all three species. Label-recommended dosages resulted in growth suppression levels potentially detrimental to seedling establishment for all three species. This was most pronounced for Pinus monticola, in particular for root growth, where untreated control seedlings showed 109% more root volume growth than treated seedlings. We conclude that when possible, a species-specific application rate might be found that balances the benefits of vegetation control with the phytotoxicity to promote optimal growth gains.


Herbicide Plantation establishment Site preparation Phytotoxicity 



Potlatch Corporation (Abbie Acuff, John Mandzak, and Kathy Mattson), Idaho Department of Lands (John Bruna), and the Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research at the University of Idaho (Sue Morrison, Annette Brusven, Don Regan, Rob Keefe, Kayla Herriman, and Heather Gang) for providing funding, assistance, plant materials, and supplies for these projects. Donn Thill, Ron Mahoney, Joan Campbell, Jody Johnson-Maynard, and three anonymous reviewers provided their technical assistance and/or guidance with an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research, College of Natural ResourcesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

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