`Ben Lear' and `Stevens' Cranberry Root and Shoot Growth Response to Soil Water Potential

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, 1575 Linden Drive, Madison, WI, 53706

Wisconsin cranberry growers report that fruit production by the cranberry cultivar `Ben Lear' (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) is low in beds with poor drainage, while the cultivar `Stevens' is less sensitive to these conditions. We hypothesized that `Ben Lear' and `Stevens' would differ in their root growth and mortality response to variation in soil water potential. Rooted cuttings of each cultivar were grown in a green-house in sand-filled pots with three different soil water potentials which were regulated by a hanging water column below a fritted ceramic plate. A minirhizotron camera was used to record root growth and mortality weekly for five weeks. Root mortality was negligible (2% to 6%). Whole plant relative growth rates were greatest for both cultivars under the wettest conditions. Rooting depth was shallowest under the wettest conditions. Whole-plant relative growth rates of `Ben Lear' were higher than `Stevens' at all soil water potentials. `Stevens' plants had significantly higher root to shoot ratios and lower leaf area ratios than `Ben Lear' plants, and produced more total root length than `Ben Lear' at all soil water potentials. Shallow rooting, high leaf area ratio, and low allocation to root production by `Ben Lear' plants may lead to greater susceptibility to drought stress than `Stevens' plants in poorly drained cranberry beds.

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