Root development in soils
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Root Development in Soils. Root Growth Hypothesis—Minimum Effort. Root Growth Hypothesis—Profile Rebuilding. Measure depth and root length density in situ Frequent measurement can reveal root birth and death patterns (root turnover) Soil genesis. Undisturbed. Four Treatments.

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Root growth hypothesis profile rebuilding
Root Growth Hypothesis—Profile Rebuilding

  • Measure depth and root length density in situ

  • Frequent measurement can reveal root birth and death patterns (root turnover)

  • Soil genesis

Four treatments


Four Treatments


Minimum Effort (a.k.a. Builder’s Special)


4 in (10 cm) topsoil

4 in (10 cm) topsoil, interface scuffed by tilling

Includes compost, subsoiling, and topsoil

Characterizing undisturbed soil
Characterizing undisturbed soil

  • Shottower Silt Loam

Applying compost profile rebuilding
Applying Compost: Profile Rebuilding

Preparing the plots pre treatment
Preparing the plots: Pre Treatment

Vegetation and topsoil scraped and stockpiled

8 passes with a compactor at optimal moisture for compaction. Bulk density = 2.0 g/cm3

Tilling enhanced topsoil and profile rebuilding
Tilling: “Enhanced Topsoil” and “Profile Rebuilding”

For the ET and PR treatments, the topsoil was rototilled to a depth of 8 inches (20 cm).

ET: to disrupt interface

PR: to prepare planting surface (eliminate clods)

Subsoiling technique

Step 1: Apply 4 inches leaf litter compost

Step 2: Use backhoe to go down 2 feet, scoop, and allow to fall down to break up clods. Large clods may require a prod with the backhoe. Creates veins of compost deep in profile.

Step 3: Apply 4 inches reserved topsoil

Step 4: Rototill to 8 inch depth

Subsoiling Technique

  • Similar to technique suggested by Kaj Rolf, Swedish researcher

  • Can be used in confined spaces (median strips, parking lot islands)

  • Addresses subsoil compaction

Profile rebuilding
Profile Rebuilding

  • Short termAids in establishment

  • We will be able to quantify how much canopy you get for your investment

  • To be determined in the long term

    • Soil biogenesis

    • Carbon storage

    • Root production and depth

    • Soil water capture

Questions to pose
Questions to Pose

  • Can we improve soil function for stormwater throughout a city?

  • Can trees roots improve drainage from bioretention areas and make underdrainage unnecessary?

Root development in soils

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