Linking Hydraulic Conductivity to Anatomy in Plants that Vary in Specific Root Length

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

In Citrus L. sp., specific root length of whole root systems has been correlated positively with root hydraulic conductivity, but there is little mechanistic understanding of the causes for this association. The hydraulic conductivity of individual roots in relation to root anatomical characteristics in seedlings of three citrus rootstocks [sour orange (SO) (Citrus aurantium L.), trifoliate orange (TO) (Poncirus trifoliate (L.) Raf.), and Swingle citrumelo (SC) (C. paradisi Macf. × P. trifoliata)] that vary widely in specific root length (SRL) was measured. Among fibrous roots, first-order and secondorder laterals were examined. Relative differences among rootstocks in the overall hydraulic conductivity (LP) and radial conductivity (LR) for individual 1-month-old and 6-month-old second- and first-order roots generally were consistent with hydraulic conductivity determined previously for entire root systems. There were no significant differences in axial conductance per unit pressure (Kh) in either first- or second-order roots among the rootstocks. This was consistent with the similarity in number and diameter of xylem vessels. One-month-old second-order roots had no suberized exodermis but varied in cortical radius. Six-month-old second-order roots of TO, however, had more nonsuberized cells (passage cells) in the exodermis than roots of SC and SO, although the cortical radius of SC and SO roots were not different. Compared to 6-month-old second-order roots, 1-month-old second-order roots had much higher LP and LR but lower Kh. Differences in overall root hydraulic conductivity among the citrus rootstocks were mainly related to structural differences in the radial pathway for water movement, suggesting that radial hydraulic conductivity was the primary determining factor of water uptake in citrus rootstocks.

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