Water Stress Affects Rhizosphere Respiration Rates and Root Morphology of Young `Mutsu' Apple Trees on M.9 and MM.111 Rootstocks

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

One-year-old potted `Mutsu' apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] trees on scion invigorating Malling-Merton 111 (MM.111) and scion dwarfing Malling 9 (M.9) rootstocks were grown outdoors in containers under three levels of water availability (irrigated at -20, -80, and -200 kPa) to investigate the effects of soil water availability on combined soil/root (rhizosphere) respiration rates, and developmental morphology of root systems. Rhizosphere respiration was measured with a portable infrared gas analyzer, and root biomass was estimated by electrical capacitance. These nondestructive measurements were compared with final root dry weights of harvested trees, to determine their reliability for estimating relative differences in root biomass. Water stress reduced final biomass similarly for both rootstocks, but the relative reduction in shoot growth was greater for MM.111. Root to shoot ratios were higher and average specific root respiration was lower for M.9 rootstock compared with MM.111. M.9 appeared to be more tolerant of water stress then MM.111, due to reduced canopy transpiration relative to root system mass. Water stress increased root to shoot ratios, specific root length, and the carbohydrate costs of root maintenance as indicated by specific respiration rates. Root dry weight (DW) was better correlated to rhizosphere respiration than to root electric capacitance. The observed r2 values between root capacitance and root DW were as high as 0.73, but capacitance measurements were also influenced by soil water content and rootstock type. Electrical capacitance estimated total root biomass more accurately for M.9 than for MM.111.

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