593 Water Stress Influences Soil/Root Respiration Rate and Root Morphology of Young Apple Trees

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  • 1 Dept. of Fruit and Vegetable Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

One-year-old potted `Mutsu' apple (Malus domestica) trees on MM.111 and M.9 rootstocks were grown outdoors from May to Nov. 1997, under three levels of soil-water availability (–20, –80, and –200 kPa), to evaluate the effects of water stress on soil/root respiration and root morphology. At weekly intervals, we measured soil/root respiration using a portable infrared gas analyzer and rootsystem size or functional activity using an electric capacitance meter. These observations were tested as nondestructive methods to estimate relative differences in root size and morphology in situ compared with final dry weight and form of excavated apple rootstocks. Root size-class distributions were estimated by digital imaging and analysis of harvested root systems. Root growth was substantially reduced by water stress; the magnitude of reduction was similar for both rootstocks, but the percentage of shoot growth reduction was higher for MM.111. Root: shoot ratios were higher and average specific respiration rates over the growing season were lower for M.9 root systems. Water stress increased the root: shoot ratio, specific root length, and carbon costs of root maintenance as indicated by specific respiration rates. Soil/root respiration was more closely correlated than root electric capacitance with actual root system size. The observed r2 values between root capacitance and root dry weight were as high as 0.73, but root capacitance was also confounded by other factors, limiting its usefulness for nondestructive estimation of root size or activity. Rootstock genotype significantly affected root capacitance, which provided better estimates of root dry weight for M.9 than for MM.111.

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