February 8, 2023
Vineland studies propagation trays

What happens in propagation doesn’t stay in propagation, according to a new report titled The Impact of Propagation Trays on Tree Establishment. The report summarizes key findings from a five-year field trial conducted by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland), in partnership with A.M.A. Horticulture (A.M.A.).

Researchers propagated black cherry and eastern cottonwood trees in four commonly used trays, including RootSmart, an open-wall tray designed by Vineland for optimal air pruning and commercialized by A.M.A. Beginning in 2017, researchers dug up a row of trees each year to analyze the root systems for key traits that support healthy tree establishment. The trial found that root defects occurring in propagation were persistent and sustained after five years in the field, creating permanent defects that have been linked with mortality in urban trees, including root girdling and root ball development. The RootSmart tray consistently produced high-quality root systems compared to the other trays, including better overall root quality and distribution, and a higher number of root-soil contact points.

ama and vineland research

Increasingly, governments and not-for-profit organizations are investing in large-scale urban tree planting programs and solutions are needed to help ensure trees will last their full life cycle. It has been reported that for every 100 urban trees planted, only 50 will live 13 to 20 years. Urban tree planting programs support the fight against climate change and producing quality nursery stock plays a key role in their success.

“As we look to green the landscape, we need to focus on promoting healthy root systems right at the beginning, when it counts,” Rhoda deJonge, Director of Plant Responses and the Environment at Vineland, said. “These findings confirm that once problems occur in propagation, they continue to impact how the tree develops and can lead to poor stability and increased risk of windthrow — critical issues that are only becoming more prevalent with climate change.”