We investigated the early root development of Salix nigra
L. willow grown from cuttings in the different riverbank sediments; silt, sand and stones. Cuttings were grown for 10 weeks in layered sediment types in five large planter boxes, each box having three separate compartments. The boxes differed in the proportion of silt, sand and stones. At 10 weeks, the roots were extracted and sorted into diameter classes (≥2 mm; 1 < 2 mm; <1 mm) according to sediment type and depth. Root length and dry mass were measured and root length density (RLD) and root mass density (RMD) calculated. Root development of S. nigra
cuttings varied with the substrate, either silt, sand or stones. Roots initiated from the entire length of the cutting in the substrate but with a concentration of initials located at the bottom and close to the bottom of the cutting. There was substantial root extension into all three substrates and at all depths. Generally, RMD was higher in the stones, influenced by having the bottom of the cuttings in stones for four of the five treatments. RMD was highest for roots <1 mm diameter. RMD of roots <1 mm diameter was least for those roots growing in sand. Whereas RLD for roots >0.5 mm diameter was highest in the sand, RLD of roots with diameter <0.5 mm was lowest in sand. Roots of S. nigra
cuttings were least effective in binding sand, primarily because of low RLD of roots <0.5 mm diameter. It is surmised that sand lacks water and nutrients sufficient to sustain growth of fine roots compared with silt and even stones. RLD for roots >0.5 mm diameter was lowest in silt likely due to the greater resistance of the substrate to root penetration, or possibly the greater investment into smaller roots with absorption capability.
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