Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Department name when degree awarded

Plants, Soils, and Biometeorology

Committee Chair(s)

Roger Kjelgren


Roger Kjelgren


Dan Drost


Dani Or


Larry Rupp


Ray Brown


There are numerous situations where trees are grown together with herbaceous plants. In these situations there will be some degree of competition between their root zones, depending on the water content of the soils and crop and tree root distribution. Two studies were conducted: the first with maple (Acer platanoides) grown in turf grass, and the second with willow (Salix matsudana) grown in more deeply rooted barley. The objectives of this study were to quantify the effect of herbaceous competition of potential tree water stress under irrigation and when the soil is allowed to dry-down. Soil water uptake was measured in both studies to 1.2 m depth and outwards to 1.2-2.10 m away from the tree. In the maple-turf grass study, water content was measured in a single line away from the tree, while four lines covering a quadrant of the surface area were measured in willow. Water relations stomatal conductance and water potential, and tree growth were also monitored in both studies. Water uptake in turf plots was statistically different from mulch plots by depth and distance during three seasons. Water uptake was greatest at 0-60 cm depth in the turf treatments compared with mulch treatments. Soil water in mulched plots decreased slowly during the growing season. There were no statistical differences between bare soil and barley competition water uptake after soil surface water was depleted.

There were marked differences in tree root characteristics as a result of competition from turf or barley roots. The root systems of maples in the mulch and willow in bare soil extended laterally and fine roots were evident. Tree roots extended deeper and fine root were reduced under competition from turf and barley. Trees growing with turf and barley had fewer roots in the top 0.3 m soil surface while trees in mulch and bare soil had more and greater diameter roots at the same depth. Early in the season, when water content is high, root competition for water was not evident, and late in the season after turf roots and barley had depleted the soil water, trees exhibited more negative predawn leaf water potential and less stomatal conductance in response to water stress during a soil dry-down period. Tree growth was measured periodically during 1994, 1995, and 1996. Leaf area and stem growth comparisons showed a significant increase in size as a result of the absence of competition in both species, with mulch and bare soil treatments. Leaf area in mulched trees was twice that in turf treatments. In summary, we found that competition resulted in deeper tree root growth and less top growth in the presence of herbaceous competitors.