Controlling competing vegetation during early growth is one of the most important practices for the successful establishment of poplar plantations. Today, most poplar plantations in temperate regions are established on abandoned marginal agricultural land where competing vegetation is usually present during the first years after planting. Thus, the objective of this study was to examine how the growth of two kinds of poplar planting materials, un-rooted cuttings and bare-rooted seedlings was influenced by different vegetation control and soil preparation practices. Across treatments, un-rooted cuttings grew more rapidly than the bare-rooted seedlings. Our results also show that mulching with a degradable carpet or permanent polyethylene plastic increased seedling growth to a similar extent and more strongly in the cases of no treatment (in control plots). In addition, the results suggest that soil preparation in the mulched area favored seedling growth, but this effect was restricted to the first year after planting. These findings indicate that optimal practices for establishing poplar plantations on former agricultural land include planting un-rooted cuttings in prepared soil and mulching.
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