Effects of competing vegetation and post-planting weed control on the mortality, growth and vole damages to Betula pendula planted on former agricultural land
Silva Fennica 39(3): 365380
Effects of competing vegetation and weed control methods (fibre board mulch, cover crop of clover, various herbicides) on the survival and growth of and vole damage to silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) were analysed based on data from a field experiment established in southern Finland. The cover percentage of competing vegetation and its shading effect were assessed, and seedling size and vitality were recorded several times during the 11-year research period. Mean seedling height and height increment decreased linearly with increasing vegetation cover. Seedling mortality started to significantly increase once the vegetation cover had reached the level of 60–80%. Herbicides significantly retarded increase of weed cover on the initially weedless areas for two to three years, and a cover crop promoted increase in cover percentage. Successful weed control with herbicides significantly increased seedling growth and survival. After 11 years, the average stem volume on the herbicide-treated plots (28.9 m3 ha–1) was 2.5-fold as compared to that of the control plots (11.6 m3 ha–1). Furthermore, seedling mortality on the control plots (21%) was almost 3.5-fold as compared to the seedling mortality on herbicide-treated plots (6%). Having a cover crop proved to be an ineffective weed control method both in terms of seedling growth and survival. The application of mulch had only a slight effect on height increment (0.6 m in 11 years), but on the other hand, it considerably decreased seedling mortality (control: 21%, mulch treatment: 1.5%). These differences were not, however, statistically significant. Small seedling size, high shading class, and high vegetation coverage percentage increased the risk of voles damaging the seedlings.
Received 18 May 2004 Accepted 30 August 2005