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Good genetics is Key #1 to successful plantation establishment. The other three keys relate to plantation establishment: soil cultivation, weed control and nutrition. In philosophical terms, the genetics provides the potential for the tree to achieve under given climatic conditions and soil type. Removing constraints to growth (hard soil, competition for water and nutrients) and supplying nutrients required for creating plant tissues allows the genetics to be expressed.
Although species-dependent, most commercial tree species prefer a well-cultivated soil medium (known as 'tilth') to optimise early growth and survival. Most managers create a mound of consolidated topsoil to plant seedlings; this concentrates topsoil nutrients and raises the soil profile slightly to prevent waterlogging.
Weed control is the most important of the keys. Removing weed competition gives young seedlings the best chance to become established. Low vigour and death are the downsides of poor weed control.
Tailoring fertiliser applications to plant needs is all about delivering the right product, in the right place, in the right amount, at the right time. We match fertiliser type and rate, using soil samples as a guide but also 'listening' to the trees, which tell you what they are hungry for by showing suboptimal leaf colour, shape or form.
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