Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Forest Ecology and Management (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Martin F Jurgensen


Organic amendments are commonly used to improve tree nursery soil conditions for increased seedling growth. However, few studies compare organic amendments effects on soil conditions, and fewer compare subsequent effects on seedling growth. The effects of three organic amendments on soil properties and seedling growth were investigated at the USDA Forest Service J.W. Toumey Nursery in Watersmeet, MI. Pine sawdust (red pine, Pinus resinosa), hardwood sawdust (maple, Acer spp. and aspen, Populus spp.), and peat were individually incorporated into a loamy sand nursery soil in August, 2006, and soil properties were sampled periodically for the next 14 months. Jack (Pinus banksiana), red, and white pine (Pinus strobus) were sown into test plots in June, 2007 and sampled for growth responses at the end of the growing season. It is hypothesized; pine sawdust and peat can be used as a satisfactory soil amendment to improve soil conditions and produce high quality seedlings, when compared to hardwood sawdust in bareroot nursery soils. This study has the potential to reduce nursery costs while broadening soil amendment options.

The addition of peat and pine sawdust increased soil organic matter above control soil conditions after 14 months. However, hardwood sawdust-amended soils did not differ from control soils after same time period. High N concentrations in peat increased total soil N over the other treatments. Similarly, the addition of peat increased soil matric potential and available water over all other treatments. Seedlings grew tallest with the largest stem diameter, and had the largest biomass in both control soil and soil amended with peat, compared to either sawdust treatment. Seedlings grown in peat-amended soils had higher N concentrations than those grown in soils treated with pine sawdust, though neither was different from seedlings grown in control or hardwood sawdust-amended soils. Overall, peat is a well suited organic soil amendment for the enhancement of soil properties, but no amendments were able to increase one-year seedling growth over control soils.