Root Severance at Harvest Increases Embolism and Decreases Sap Flow of Field-grown Acer rubrum L.

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061
  • 2 Department of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Root severance during field harvesting alters the water status of a tree, resulting in water stress and reduced post-transplant growth. Two experiments, using Acer rubrum L. (red maple), determined the influence of root severance at harvest on sap flow and xylem embolism. Trees 1.5–1.8 m tall (4 years old) were utilized in the first experiment, and trees 1.2–1.5 m tall (2 years old) were utilized in the second. Sap flow sensors were installed on the 4-year-old trees prior to root severance and remained on the trees until 1 week after harvest. Within 1 day after root severance sap flow was reduced and remained lower than nontransplanted (control) trees for the remainder of the experiment. Leaf stomatal conductance (Cs) of transplanted trees 1 week after root severance was lower than that of control trees, but leaf water potentials (ψ) were similar. In the second experiment, sap flow was reduced relative to control trees within 2 h after root severance. Although Cs was reduced 4 hours after root severance, ψ was not. Embolism increased within 24 hours of root severance. These results indicate that root severance quickly induces increased levels of embolism, which is associated with reduced sap flow.

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Contributor Notes

Current address: Mississippi State Univ., South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station, P.O. Box 193, Poplarville, MS 39470.
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