Crown characteristics of juvenile loblolly pine 6 years after application of thinning and fertilization
Total foliage dry mass and leaf area at the canopy hierarchical level of needle, shoot, branch and crown were measured in 48 trees harvested from a 14-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantation, six growing seasons after thinning and fertilization treatments. In the unthinned treatment, upper crown needles were heavier and had more leaf area than lower crown needles. Branch- and crown-level leaf area of the thinned trees increased 91 and 109%, respectively, and whole-crown foliage biomass doubled. The increased crown leaf area was a result of more live branches and foliated shoots and larger branch sizes in the thinned treatment. Branch leaf area increased with increasing crown depth from the top to the mid-crown and decreased towards the base of the crown. Thinning stimulated foliage growth chiefly in the lower crown. At the same crown depth in the lower crown, branch leaf area was greater in the thinned treatment than in the unthinned treatment. Maximum leaf area per branch was located nearly 3-4 m below the top of the crown in the unthinned treatment and 4-5 m in the thinned treatment. Leaf area of the thinned-treatment trees increased 70% in the upper crown and 130% in the lower crown. Fertilization enhanced needle size and leaf area in the thinning-induced increase in light penetration within thc canopy leads to increased branch size and crown leaf area. However, the branch and crown attributes have little response to fertilization and its interaction with thinning.