Highlights: The duration of short-day treatment, calculated as number of days, influenced the root collar diameter growth more than the timing of the treatment; If short-day treatment starts early in summer, a longer duration of the treatment is recommended to avoid second bud flush.
A slower reaction of diameter growth cessation compared to that of height growth in response to short day (SD) treatment is well documented in Picea abies (L.) Karst. seedlings, suggesting that the height/diameter ratio of seedlings could be controlled through appropriate timing and/or duration of SD treatment is forest nurseries. Here, we applied specific combinations of timing (starting date 20 and 27 June, 4 or 11 July) and duration (7, 10, 14 or 17 days) of SD treatment to assess the possibility of obtaining more sturdy seedlings. We observed a rapid and uniform height growth cessation following SD treatment compared with the delayed cessation of diameter growth. Height growth responded significantly only to starting date of SD treatment, resulting in taller seedlings for later starting dates. Diameter growth responded to the duration of SD treatment, with significantly less diameter growth in seedlings exposed to 14 or 17 days of SD treatment than in seedlings exposed to 7 or 10 days of SD treatment. Also starting date influenced diameter growth, resulting in significantly more diameter growth with the earliest starting date compared with the two latest starting dates of the SD treatment. A second bud flush occurred only in seedlings exposed to SD treatment starting on 20 or 27 of June and only following 7-14 days of duration. This implies a need of longer duration if the SD treatment starts early. This will be at the expense of sustained diameter growth, thus compromising the objective of obtaining more sturdy seedlings.