Responses of Young Peach Trees to Root Confinement

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602
  • | 2 Universitá degli Studi-Palermo, Istituto di Coltivazioni Arboree, Viale di Scienze, 90128, Palermo, Italy

Rooted cuttings of Nemaguard peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.] were grown in 0.18-, 0.36-, 0.90-, and 2.40-liter containers for 16 weeks to study the influence of root confinement on growth, gas exchange, water uptake, and leaf carbohydrate and nutrient content. An automatic nutrient-solution dispensing system was used to ensure uniform fertility among treatments and to prevent drought stress. Leaf area and stem length were reduced by root confinement 6 to 7 weeks after transplanting, and differences among treatments increased throughout the experiment. Final tree dry weights were reduced by 51% over a 13-fold reduction in rooting volume, but dry weight partitioning was largely unaffected. A temporary limitation to CO2 assimilation (A) and leaf conductance (g) was observed just after budbreak, but consistent reductions in A and g for confined trees did not occur until after week 11. Sorbitol and starch accumulated earlier in leaves of trees in smaller containers than larger containers. Despite similar fertility, concentrations of all nutrients except N and Cu were reduced ≈2-fold for trees in 0.18-liter containers compared to other treatments. However, characteristics of nutrient deficiency were not observed on any trees, and growth reduction with no change in leaf nutrient content was observed in other treatments. It was concluded that the initial mechanisms limiting growth were not gas exchange rates, levels of nonstructural carbohydrates, or drought stress, although nutrient deficiency may have contributed to growth limitation in trees with severely confined root systems.

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