Short-term effects of nitrogen availability on wood formation and fibre properties in hybrid poplar
Pitre FE., Cooke JEK., Mackay JJ.
The application of nitrogen-containing fertilisers is one approach used to increase growth rates and productivity of forest tree plantations. However, the effects of nitrogen fertilisation on wood properties have not been systematically assessed. The aim of this work was to document the impacts of nitrogen fertilisation on wood formation and secondary xylem fibre properties. We used three fertilisation treatments in which the level of ammonium nitrate was adjusted to 0, 1 and 10 mM in a complete nutrient solution applied daily over a period of 28 days in standardised greenhouse experiments with clonal material of Populus trichocarpa (Torr and Gray) × deltoides (Bartr. ex Marsh). We showed that there was a short-term and repeatable response in which xylem fibre morphology and secondary cell wall structure adapt to a shift in N availability. Under high-nitrogen exposure, xylem fibres were 17% wider and 18% shorter compared to the adequate nitrogen treatment. A very significant thickening of the fibre cell walls was also observed throughout the stem of trees receiving the high-N treatment. It appeared that cell wall structure was greatly affected by the high-N treatment as fibres developed a modified inner cell wall layer. Histological observations indicated that the internal cell wall layer was enriched in cellulose and chemical determinations showed that wood contained more holocellulose. Together, these results indicate that the response of poplar to nitrogen availability may involve marked effects on secondary xylem formation. © 2007 Springer-Verlag.