Research papers

Use of innovative groundcovers in Mediterranean afforestations: aerial and belowground effects in hybrid walnut.


Forest restoration in the Mediterranean area is particularly limited by water scarcity in summer and by weed competition, especially during the first years after establishment. The negative impact of these factors can be mitigated through environmentally friendly and cost-effective techniques which favour root development. This study describes the results of innovative weeding techniques in a reforestation carried out in a former agricultural field in Solsona, NE Spain, under Continental Mediterranean Sub-humid climate conditions. The tested weeding techniques included both novel groundcovers (based on prototypes built on a new biodegradable biopolymer, jute treated with resin and recycled rubber) and reference techniques, i.e. herbicide application and polyethylene and commercial biofilm groundcovers. We studied the response of hybrid walnut (Juglans x intermedia) to the application of these techniques during the first vegetative period in terms of survival, aerial growth and aboveground and belowground biomass allocation. The innovative groundcovers resulted generally in similar outcomes as the reference techniques with regard to tree survival and growth, and to better results in the case of belowground and, to a lesser extent, total tree biomass. Although preliminary, our results suggest that the tested novel groundcovers, notably the model based on treated jute, represent a promising alternative to plastic mulching and herbicide application in afforestation of agricultural lands in Mediterranean continental conditions. Besides these promising productive results, the novel groundcovers bring together relevant technical and environmental benefits, related to their use (not requiring removal or being reusable) and composition, based on biodegradable or recycled materials.


Biomass allocation; Eco-innovation; Forest restoration; Juglans; Mulching; Reforestation

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