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Proceedings of Past Forest Nursery Association Meetings:

Developing Microbial Inoculants for Native Hawaiian Trees
Wilkinson, Kim H.
2000: Kona, HI
Reforestation, afforestation, Rhizobia, mycorrhizal fungi

Our nursery grows tree seedlings mainly for nonindustrial projects, usually for people who are reforesting their own property. Our clients generally share 3 characteristics:
Most are planting on land that is somewhat marginal or degraded: former pasture, old sugar cane land, eroded hillsides, exposed ridges, etc;
Most operate on a limited budget, planning for minimal maintenance after establishment; and
Most have a larger vision for their project than simply creating a stand of trees: they want their trees to survive independently and to reestablish some of the ecosystem value of a forest.

We use certain microbial inoculants in the nursery as a part of supporting the objectives of accelerating rehabilitation of degraded land and ecosystem function, as well as reducing costs in establishment and maintenance of forest plantings. Microbial inoculants re-create natural partnerships between plants and some of the beneficial microorganisms that support plants. Using microbial inoculants is a way to reintroduce some naturally occurring microorganisms that support the productivity of plants in nature. In our nursery, we work with both rhizobia and mycorrhizal inoculants.

The use of rhizobia inoculants for nitrogen-fixing trees, including the native Hawaiian koa (Acacia koa) will be discussed in this paper, along with how nitrogen fixation works, why inoculation in the nursery is advantageous, and how to use rhizobia inoculants in the nursery. Information is given about mycorrhizal fungi, whose use has to date been limited in nurseries in Hawaii.

For the end user, the tree planter, there can be some tremendous economic and ecological benefits of rhizobia and mycorrhizal inoculants having been used in the nursery. For the Hawaiian koa, for example, inoculation can result in faster early growth, with reduced use of chemical fertilizers. Faster early growth also means faster shading of understory and quicker canopy closure, which reduces weed control expenses. Inoculating tree seedlings in the nursery stage can save the people who plant the trees lot of money in tree establishment, while at the same time reducing the use of some chemical fertilizers and herbicides. Using microbial inoculants can help make it more sustainable, and also more affordable, for people to reforest with species such as the native Hawaiian koa.
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