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Performance of Eucalyptus globulus plantations in south-western Australia in relation to soils and climate

Harper, R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-0268-2917, Edwards, J.G., McGrath, J.F., Reilly, T.J. and Ward, S.L. (1999) Performance of Eucalyptus globulus plantations in south-western Australia in relation to soils and climate. In: Balancing Productivity and Drought Risk in Blue Gum Plantations: a Plantation Management Workshop, 9 - 10 November, Pemberton, Western Australia



Several interacting factors were found to affect the early performance of blue-gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantations planted on farmland in south-western Australia. These included climate (rainfall, evaporation), soil volume (estimated by soil depth, occurrence of ferricrete gravel), soil fertility (total N content) and stocking. These factors all point to water supply as being the critical factor in plantation performance in this region, with growth increasing with increasing rainfall and decreasing evaporation. Similarly, they suggest that both the location of trees in the landscape (slope position) and planting conformation (strips integrated with farming) will become more important with decreasing rainfall and increasing evaporation. Response to nitrogen fertilization is expected on sites with poor existing nitrogen fertility and an adequate moisture supply.

Many soil attributes that are important for blue-gum performance (soil depth, soil fertility, soil salinity) are not measured in regional soil surveys; those soil attributes which are measured (soil profile form, texture, colour) are not, or only poorly related to blue-gum growth. Thus, regional mapping (1:50 000 – 1:100 000 scale) may be of marginal value in predicting blue-gum productivity. Site surveys of key soil attributes are required at scales of 1:10,000 to 1:20,000 prior to planting, with an appropriate observation density. Information from these surveys may also be interpreted for site-specific management.

Potential changes to site selection practice include taking into account rainfall (current limit 600 mm), annual evaporation and soil fertility; however any changes will depend on an economic analysis including transport distances and land costs. Existing recommendations of not planting shallow (<2m to a root impeding layer), saline soils and deep sands (sand horizons >2 m deep) remain.

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