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  • Author or Editor: Claudia Fassio x
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Root morphological traits and biomass allocation were studied in 2-year-old ‘Duke 7’ avocado (Persea americana) trees propagated using seedling and clonal techniques. The plants either were or were not grafted with the scion ‘Hass’. Whole tree excavation 1 year after planting revealed that the propagation technique affected the root growth angle of the main roots (third order roots), the root length density (defined as the total length of roots per volume of soil), and the number of first and second order roots present. The root system of clonal trees showed a typical morphology of rooted cuttings, with a crown of roots originating from a relatively short stem, resulting in a shallow root system. Clonal trees, compared with seedlings, produced main framework roots with shallower angles and more fine roots (first and second order roots) that increased the root length density (defined as the total length of roots per volume of soil). Nongrafted seedlings exhibited a main taproot and lateral roots with narrow angles that penetrated deeper into the soil and increased the aboveground biomass but had a lower root-to-shoot ratio than nongrafted clonal trees. The grafting of both clonal and seedling trees resulted in similar root architecture and revealed that grafting significantly decreased the soil volume explored and the shoot and root biomass. Although both root systems were shallow, grafted clonal trees had a higher root-to-shoot ratio than grafted seedlings. In this study, a distinct class of roots with large diameter and unbranched growth was more abundant in the root systems of clonal trees. These types of roots (previously undescribed in avocado trees), called pioneer roots, may enhance soil exploration in clonal trees.

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Vapor pressure deficit (VPD) is the driving force for plant water loss. However, air relative humidity (RH) can be used as a surrogate for VPD. While plants can adapt to environments with varying RH, little is known about how they respond to sudden shifts in RH. Areas of Southern California can experience drastic shifts in RH, from 60% or greater to less than 20% in just a few hours. The effect of these shifts on avocado (Persea americana Mill.) tree productivity is a major concern to growers. We studied the effect of shifts in RH on `Hass' avocado leaf stomatal conductance (g s) and branch sap flow in trees grafted on Duke 7 clonal rootstock. Under many conditions, the avocado assimilation rate is governed by g s. When g s is high in morning (>150 mmol·m-2·s-1), the water loss generally leads to some stomatal closure in the afternoon (50% or more). Conversely, low morning g s results in a higher g s rate in the afternoon (10% to 20% stomatal closure). This relationship between morning and afternoon g s is intensified by a shift from high to low RH in the afternoon. Therefore, in a drier atmosphere in the afternoon, the afternoon depression in g s is greater, leading to an impaired assimilation capacity. We hypothesize that the afternoon decrease in g s is due to low root/shoot hydraulic conductivity since soil water is readily available. While it is possible that low hydraulic conductivity on g s is exacerbated at the graft union, sap flow of grafted trees in greenhouse studies was nearly equal to trees on their own roots (ungrafted); in fact, often the depression in the afternoon was less on grafted trees. This suggests that while avocado is not suited to areas with low RH, water flow through the roots could be an additional criterion in selecting improved rootstocks.

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