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Development of a subirrigation system with potential for hardwood tree propagation


Mark V. Coggeshall



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station

Historical Station(s):

North Central Research Station


International Plant Propagators’ Society, Combined Proceedings (2001). 51: 443-448.


The successful propagation of many desirable hardwood tree species by means of traditional stem cutting propagation remains an elusive goal. A number of species within genera such as Juglans and Quercus are highly prized for their timber value, and in the case of black walnut (J. nigra) and pecan (Carya illinoinensis) also produce marketable edible nuts. Blackwalnut, pecan, and several species of oak are also important tree species in agroforestry-based systems in Missouri (Garrett and Reitveld, 1995). Clonal propagation of superior trees on their own root systems is highly desired; however, most species from these three genera are usually classified as difficult-to-root species (Coggeshall and Beineke, 1997; Zaczek et al, 1997). Mezitt (1978) first proposed the use of the subirrigation method as a propagation technique for difficult-to-root plants. Subsequent papers by Holt and Maynard (1997) and Regan and Henderson (1999) indicated that a broad range of genera could successfully be propagated, at least to a limited degree, by using subirrigation. Systems for subirrigation allow for the upward movement of water from a reservoir through the rooting media by means of capillary action, rather than providing water from above by means of a standard mist or fog system. The advantages of subirrigation systems include lower cost, reduced water use and leaching of nutrients, easier maintenance, and avoidance of water-logging of the rooting media (Regan apd Henderson, 1999). For subirrigation, the physical properties of the rooting media, such as particle size, while important, are not as critical as the ease with which water can move through it (capillarity). Perlite has been the basic media of choice for most subirrigation systems because of the high surface-to-volume ratio needed for aeration and water movement and its thermal insulation characteristics (Cook and Dunsby, 1918; Holt and Maynard, 1997). An array of environmental and physiological factors may influence propagation success including: rooting media composition, bottom heat, shading levels, auxin formulation, and the stage of cutting growth. Difficult-to-root species can be especially sensitive to these factors, which makes their successful propagation more challenging. The purpose of our study was to examine the feasibility of developing a simple, inexpensive subirrigation system as a propagation method for rooting a number of difficult-to-root tree species over an array of enviromental and physiological treatment combinations.


Coggeshall, Mark V.; Van Sambeek, J. W. 2002. Development of a subirrigation system with potential for hardwood tree propagation. International Plant Propagators’ Society, Combined Proceedings (2001). 51: 443-448.

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