Water Gel Use in Mechanized Silviculture
Water gel, or water retention gel, is a polymer that holds water around the seedling roots. The gel gradually releases water and nutrients to the root of the plant. China, South-America, and the Southern African region are some of the areas where water gel is used in commercial forestry.
Water and Gel – Better Together
Gel works best in combination with watering.
During planting, apply water gel to the seedling and then water the plant with 3-5 liters. Adding water will ensure the exclusion of all other agents from reaching the root system.
With simultaneous water and gel application, the ratio of 0.1 liters of gel to 3 liters of water has proven to work best.
We don’t advocate using water gel exclusively. In case you do decide to omit the water, then an optimum amount of gel is around 0.1-0.2 liters per seedling.
Consequences of Overuse – In-field Observations
Our in-field observations show that using more significant amounts of gel than those recommended above causes several problems.
The first, and perhaps most pressing issue, is that a polymeric pouch, or cavity, forms around the seedling.
This polymeric pouch, which resembles a thin plastic bag, will cause root stunting, i.e., roots that won’t be to absorb water and nutrients, thereby hindering growth.
The situation is most acute in areas with reasonable amounts of rainfall. Overuse of water gel causes weak root system growth. Besides, during dry spells, the roots haven’t spread and grown downward, causing seedling death.
Ensuring a suitable planting depth is vital in terms of gel applications. Deep soil cultivation provides even distribution and access to moisture, which will prevent over-accumulation of gel around the plant and provides space for the root to grow.
Some Concluding Remarks
Water gel usage in forestry will probably increase due to the effects of a hotter and dryer climate. Gel does indeed work well in combination with water.
However, we have observed excellent results by only applying enough water during planting.