Silviculture / Modification of the physical environment / Soil cultivation
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Soil cultivation

Waterlogging, soil compaction and low fertility can be so bad on some sites that tree survival and growth won’t be possible without intensive soil preparation. If a potential site has such problems, growers might need to invest in deep ripping, mounding, cultivation, and fertilisation.

In addition to improving growth, intensive soil preparation is also often used to identify planting lines and reduce the cost of contract planting. Planting crews can work faster when planting into well-worked soil. Well-tilled soil can also save farmers money because it allows open-rooted or very small seedlings to be planted instead of seedlings in large pots, which are more expensive to handle. Another advantage of intensive site preparation is that it appears to improve uniformity of growth across plantations. This might be a critical consideration in large plantations managed at high stockings, but may be of little concern to a grower considering wide spacing and pruning regimes.

In many cases, farmers find that soil preparation is not essential. On difficult sites or in small areas, it is often better to save money and accept slower growth or less uniformity.

Many years of research in Victoria has demonstrated that there is little or no response to ripping if the soil is shallow and does little to impede root development. Large mounds can reduce the risk of waterlogging around the root system and can effectively increase soil depth. But mounds less than about 30 centimetres high are unlikely to have a significant effect on early growth. There is also a risk that intensive soil preparation will increase the risk of wind throw and butt sweep, exacerbate soil erosion, destroy pasture and encourage the establishment of problem weeds. In heavy clay soils riplines can form which may result in the loss of trees down the cracks or cause drying out of exposed roots.

Soil compaction and nutrient decline
Planting trees to reduce Waterlogging and Salinity.

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