One of the most critical points in a tree’s lifetime is during and immediately following transplant. Trees experience transplant shock, which is a period where trees must adapt to their new environment all while recovering from distress caused by injury, resource loss, and reduced function. This stress comes from damage to or loss of the root system, which impairs a tree’s ability to take up water and nutrients. Instead of investing in vegetative growth, newly transplanted trees must use their resources to create new roots to establish in a new planting location.
The root type (containerized vs. gravel bed bareroot) and size of a newly transplanted tree may influence long-term survival. Bareroot trees' exposed roots require constant moisture to maintain viability and are at a higher risk of damage before and during planting. Despite these challenges, bareroot stock is a more economical planting option, and is also much easier to install. Containerized trees may have a higher transplant success rate and an enhanced ability to resist drought. Drawbacks of containers include the risk of deformed root systems and stem girdling roots due to improper nursery practices as well as increased production cost. The size of nursery stock can also influence survival of transplanted trees. It is generally acknowledged that small-caliper trees establish more quickly than large-caliper trees. This is partially because it takes less time for the root spread-to-height ratio to re-establish after transplant.
This study compares mortality, caliper growth, and tree condition between containerized trees and two sizes of gravel bed bareroot trees to see which option is the most cost-effective and productive.