Native to bogs of eastern North America, the American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) is a low-growing, vine-like woody perennial that forms a dense mat on the soil surface (Eck, 1990). Short vertical stems, known as uprights, arise from the vine or from older uprights (Eck, 1990) and bear fruit biennially (Strik et al., 1991). There are several indications that cranberry vines are under significant carbohydrate stress, including low fruit set (Roper and Vorsa, 1997), biennial bearing of uprights (Birrenkott et al., 1991; Strik et al., 1991), and low carbohydrate concentrations at the beginning of fruit set (Hagidimitriou and Roper, 1994).
Another significant cause of carbohydrate stress in vines may be prolonged periods of net respiration during flooding (Botelho and Vanden Heuvel, 2005, 2006). Flooding is a common management tool used by cranberry growers for several purposes, including protection from dry winter winds in cold climates. Late water (LW) and flash floods are used for weed reduction and pest control in the spring (Averill et al., 1997; Cockfield and Mahr, 1992; Marucci and Moulter, 1971), whereas harvest floods are used to harvest fruit and can be extended to control insects and weeds (DeMoranville et al., 2005). Botelho and Vanden Heuvel (2006) determined that floods applied in the fall (i.e., harvest floods) reduced total nonstructural carbohydrate concentration (TNSC) of cranberry uprights more than in spring floods (i.e., LW or flash floods). Factors that affect vine respiration rate such as water temperature and dissolved oxygen concentration (Botelho and Vanden Heuvel, 2005) have been noted to affect vine TNSC concentration during flooding (Botelho and Vanden Heuvel, 2006), although how these factors specifically affect the vine (e.g., biology, physiology, function) is not clear.
We hypothesized that flooding detrimentally affects cranberry tissue and that this would be reflected in changes in organ structure. Based on previous findings that increased water temperature reduced TNSC concentration (Botelho and Vanden Heuvel, 2006), elevated water temperatures may similarly affect tissue structure more negatively than would cooler temperatures. However, evidence for such tissue responses to flooding has not been published for cranberry. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of water temperature during spring and fall floods on TNSC and anatomy/morphology of ‘Stevens’ and ‘Early Black’ cranberry vines.
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