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Christina E. Wells and David M. Eissenstat

Fine root lifespan has previously been estimated at 3 to 4 weeks for apple trees growing in England. We used nondestructive belowground imaging technology to investigate the accuracy of this estimate for apple trees growing in central Pennsylvania. Eight root observation tubes (minirhizotrons) were installed beneath each of six 20-year-old `Red Delicious' apple trees on M26 rootstock. Videos of roots growing against the tubes were taken at intervals of 14 to 28 days between October to June, depending on the amount of root activity. Images were used to construct a database of life history information for over 500 individual roots. A flush of fine roots was produced in the early fall, followed by a period of low but constant mortality that lasted through December. Roots that survived to this time were generally maintained throughout the winter and following spring. A second flush of root production occurred in the spring, coinciding with bud burst and flowering. Root mortality was highest in late spring following this flush. In contrast to earlier estimates of apple root lifespan, we found that >30% of the fine roots produced in the fall lived for ≥200 days. Most of these roots developed red-brown pigmentation, a feature that previously has been associated with cortical cell death. However, the ability of these pigmented roots to produce new white laterals in the spring argues against categorizing these as dead roots. The information on root demographics provided by this study adds to our understanding of seasonal carbon and nutrient allocation patterns in apple.

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Gilbert Miller, Ahmad Khalilian, Jeffrey W. Adelberg, Hamid J. Farahani, Richard L. Hassell and Christina E. Wells

Delineating the depth and extent of the watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thumb.) Matsum. & Nak.] root zone assists with proper irrigation management and minimizes nutrient leaching. The objective of this 3-year field study was to measure root distribution and root length density of watermelon (cv. Wrigley) grafted on two different rootstocks (Lagenaria siceraria cv. ‘FR Strong’ and Cucurbita moschata × Cucurbita maxima cv. Chilsung Shintoza) and grown under three soil moisture treatments. Irrigation treatments tested were: no irrigation (NI), briefly irrigated for fertigation and early-season plant establishment; minimally irrigated (MI), irrigated when soil moisture in top 0.30 m of soil fell below 50% available water capacity (AWC); well irrigated (WI), irrigated when soil moisture in top 0.30 m of soil fell below 15% (AWC). Root length density (RLD) was measured from 75-cm-deep soil cores at two locations three times per growing season and a third location at the end of the season. Cores 1 and 2 sample locations were 15 cm to the side of each plant: Core 1 on the same side as the drip tape and Core 2 on the opposite side. At the end of the season, Core 3 was taken 15 cm outside of the bed in bare ground. RLD was significantly greater in the 0- to 30-cm soil depth and dropped dramatically below 30 cm; it was not significantly affected by irrigation treatment or rootstock. Core 1, next to the drip tape, had greater RLD than Core 2, 30 cm from drip tape, but only at the later sampling dates. Roots were found in Core 3 at all depths, but the RLD was significantly less than that measured in Cores 1 and 2. These findings suggest that the effective root zone depth for watermelon is 0 to 30 cm and that the particular scion/rootstock combinations tested in this study do not differ in root system size or location.

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Brian J. Tucker, Lambert B. McCarty, Haibo Liu, Christina E. Wells and James R. Rieck

As golfers demand higher quality golf green putting surfaces, researchers continue to seek improved turfgrass cultivars. One such improved cultivar is `TifEagle' bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. × C. transvaalensis Burtt-Davy], which is an improvement over traditional bermudagrass cultivars such as `Tifgreen' and `Tifdwarf' due to its ability to tolerate mowing heights of ≤3.2 mm for extended periods. One observed disadvantage of `TifEagle' is its lack of a deep, dense root system compared to previous bermudagrass cultivars. This field study measured mowing height, N rate, and biostimulant product effects on `TifEagle' rooting. Three mowing heights (3.2, 4.0, and 4.8 mm), three N rates (12, 24, and 48 kg N/ha/week), and two cytokinin-containing commercial biostimulant products (BIO1 and BIO2) were examined. Plant responses measured were root length density (RLD), root surface area (RSA), thatch layer depth (TLD), and turf quality (TQ). Increasing mowing height from 3.2 to 4.0 mm increased RLD by >11%, RSA by >11%, and TQ by >17%. Increasing N rates from 12 to 24 kg N ha-1 week-1 increased RLD by >17%, RSA by >26% and TQ by >16%. No effect on RLD was observed after the first year of biostimulant use, however, after the second year, BIO1 increased RLD by >11% when applied with the lowest rate of N (12 kg N/ha/week). Higher mowing heights (4.8 and 4.0 mm) increased TLD >6% compared to the lowest mowing height (3.2 mm), and higher N rates (48 and 24 kg N/ha/week) increased TLD >3% compared to the lowest N rate (12 kg N/ha/week). Overall, a mowing heights ≥4.0 mm, N rates ≥24 kg N/ha/week, and long-term use of a cytokinins-containing biostimulant had a positive effect on `TifEagle' rooting.

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Christina Wells, Karen Townsend, Judy Caldwell, Donald Ham, E. Thomas Smiley and Michael Sherwood

Landscape trees are frequently planted with their root collars below grade, and it has been suggested that such deep planting predisposes trees to transplant failure and girdling root formation. The objective of the present research was to examine the effect of planting depth on the health, survival, and root development of two popular landscape trees, red maple (Acer rubrum) and `Yoshino' cherry (Prunus ×yedoensis). Trees were transplanted with their root flares at grade, 15 cm below grade or 31 cm below grade. Deep planting had a strong negative effect on the short-term survival of `Yoshino' cherries. Two years posttransplant, 50% of the 15-cm- and 31-cm-deep planted cherries had died, whereas all the control cherries had survived (P< 0.001; 2). Short-term survival of maples was not affected by planting depth. Deep-planted trees of both species exhibited little fine root regrowth into the upper soil layers during the first year after transplant. Four years posttransplant, control maples had 14% ± 19% of their trunk circumference encircled by girdling or potentially-girdling roots; this number rose to 48% ± 29% and 71% ± 21% for 15-cm- and 31-cm-deep planted maples, respectively (P< 0.01; ANOVA main effect). There were no treatment-related differences in girdling root development in the cherries.