Quantifying the above- and below-ground growth responses of the Western Australian oil Mallee, Eucalyptus kochii subsp. plenissima, to contrasting decapitation regimes.

D.T. Wildy, John Pate

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Resprouting in the oil mallee, Eucalyptus kochii Maiden & Blakely subsp. plenissima Gardner (Brooker), involves generation of new shoots from preformed meristematic foci on the lignotuber. Numbers of such foci escalated from 200 per lignotuber in trees aged 1 year to 3000 on 4- to 5-year-old trees. Removal of shoot biomass by decapitation 5 cm above ground in summer (February) or spring (October) resulted in initiation of 140-170 new shoots, but approx. 400 shoots were induced to form if crops of new shoots were successively removed until sprouting ceased and rootstocks senesced. Initially, the new shoot biomass of regenerating coppices increased slowly and the root biomass failed to increase appreciably until 1.7-2.5 years after cutting. Newly cut trees showed loss of fine root biomass, and structural roots failed to secondarily thicken to the extent shown by uncut trees. After 2 years, the biomass of shoots of coppiced plants was only one-third that of uncut control trees and shoot : root dry mass ratios of coppiced plants were still low (1.5-2.0) compared with those of the controls (average ratio of 3.1). Spring cutting promoted quicker and greater biomass recovery than summer cutting. Starch in below-ground biomass fell quickly following decapitation and remained low for a 12-18 month period. Utilization of starch reserves in naturally regenerating coppices was estimated to provide only a small proportion of the dry matter accumulated in new shoots. Results are discussed in relation to their impact on coppicing ability of the species under natural conditions or when successively coppiced for shoot biomass production. (C) 2002 Annals of Botany Company.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-197
JournalAnnals of Botany
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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