Nitrogen management influenced root length intensity of young olive trees Academic Article uri icon


  • 2018 Elsevier B.V. Nitrogen (N) status in olive trees is critical to develop several developmental mechanisms that control shoot, root and nutrient uptake capacity. The objective of this field study was to assess the effect of N level and form on root growth dynamics, shoot growth, leaf-level gas exchange [photosynthesis (Pn), transpiration (E), and stomatal conductance (gs)] and leaf nutrient content of young olive (Olea europaea cv. Arbequina) trees. Olive cuttings were planted in the field and grown for two years (2015, 2016). In both years, cuttings were subjected to 7 N treatments: control (no N), nitrate (NO3) form applied as calcium nitrate (CN) at 20, 40 and 60 kg ha-1, and ammonium (NH4+) applied as urea at 20, 40 and 60 kg ha-1. Minirhizotron image analysis showed that the application of N significantly reduced root length intensity (La, mm cm-2) compared to control olives in both years. No significant difference was noticed between N forms for La in 2015. However, CN treatment had higher La than urea in April and June 2016. In addition, the overall mean of La across the study period (20152016) showed that La in the lower soil depths, 4060 and 6080 cm was significantly higher than those from the top layers, 020 and 2040 cm. Unfertilized (control) cuttings had also higher tree height, stem diameter and branch number than olives that received 40 or 60 kg ha-1-N across the study period (2015-2016). In both years, leaf N% in control olives was above the N deficiency thresholds; i.e. 2.1% in 2015 and 2.57% in 2016. However, leaf mineral concentrations were inconsistent (P, Ca+2, Na, Zn, Fe, Cu) or not significant (Mn, S and B). In addition, no significant difference was noticed between treatments in gas exchange (Pn, gs and E). Overall, untreated-control young olive trees showed consistently higher La and shoot growth than N-treated trees (CN and urea) over the study period 2015-2016. Therefore, N application is not needed if leaf N levels are normal during the previous season. In fact, high rates of N in the soil during establishment of young olive trees can negatively affect root and shoot growth.

published proceedings

  • Scientia Horticulturae

author list (cited authors)

  • Othman, Y. A., & Leskovar, D.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Othman, Yahia A||Leskovar, Daniel

publication date

  • February 2019