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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

Minirhizotrons were employed to study new root occurrence, turnover, and depth distribution of apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) rootstocks under four groundcover management systems (GMS): preemergence herbicide (Pre-H), postemergence herbicide (Post-H), mowed sod (Grass) and hardwood bark mulch (Mulch) that have been maintained since 1992 in an orchard near Ithaca, NY. Two root observation tubes were installed on both sides of one tree in three replicates for each GMS treatment. Root observations were taken at 2–3 week intervals during growing seasons of 2002 and 2003. Tree growth and yield data were collected annually since 1992. The Mulch and Post-H treatments had bigger trees and higher yields than other treatments; whereas the Grass treatment had the smallest trees and lowest yields. Higher number of new roots was observed in a light crop year (2002) than a heavy crop year (2003). Mulch trees had more shallow roots and Grass trees had fewer total roots than other treatments. Root diameter was positively correlated with overwintering root survival. The Pre-H GMS had higher root mortality during a hot and dry growing season (2002). GMS treatments affected root number and root depth distribution patterns. Hot and dry weather conditions and crop load reduced new root emergence, increased root mortality and reduced root median lifespan. GMS treatments together with environmental factors affected root growth, turnover and distribution.

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