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Dilma Daniela Silva and Richard C. Beeson Jr.

An experimental system that allows imposition of precise irrigation treatments with easy and quick observations of unrestricted root growth of woody plants was developed. The system mimics natural deep soil percolation and facilitates rapid assessment of large root populations. It was designed to be relatively inexpensive to build so that treatments could be efficiently replicated. Designs for this star-shaped rhizotron were developed and evaluated with the goals of: 1) optimizing volume and shape for minimal physical restriction and use with mature woody plants; 2) developing a drainage system comparable to natural deep soils; and 3) facilitating ease, accuracy, and duration of data acquisition. The final design allows efficient root observation, uses a wick-type drainage system to provide a near-uniform profile of soil moisture, and is easily manageable for precise long-term data acquisition. This rhizotron has eight independent viewing/sampling windows and holds 0.16 m3 of soil. An associated lightweight and compact camera positioning frame was developed that facilitates acquisition of digital photographs of soil profiles for time-series assessment of morphological and architectural parameters.

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Dilma Daniela Silva, Richard C. Beeson Jr. and Michael E. Kane

Bud outgrowth dynamics and their implications for shoot architecture were examined in japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) plants under well-irrigated [short irrigation cycle (SC)] and water-limitation [long irrigation cycle (LC)] conditions. New buds had limited sensitivity to dormancy, whereas preformed buds required more than one growing season to outgrow naturally. The first spring flush of shoot growth was mostly the result of lateral bud outgrowth, whereas latter flushes had prominent contributions of new apex buds. First flush terminal stems had mainly determinate growth (episodic). First flush lateral stems had increased occurrence of indeterminate growth (continuous). Water limitation influenced shoot architecture by enhancing apical dominance. Lateral branching was diminished 51% in LC plants compared with SC plants. As plants adapted to the stress imposed, indeterminate growth was triggered more often in meristematic regions of terminal buds of LC plants. In shoot flushes that occurred later in the stress treatment, old buds burst more frequently than the newly formed apex lateral buds. Plants under SC were more compact and better formed as an inverse triangle, whereas plants under LC had considerably less new branches and instead had long branches that would require pruning to maintain aesthetically pleasing shapes.

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Dilma Daniela Silva, Michael E. Kane and Richard C. Beeson Jr.

Although effects of irrigation frequency and volumes on overall plant establishment and growth have been reported, previous research has not examined how intermittent exposure to substrate water limitation affects partitioning of growth between root tips and buds and how this influences episodic growth patterns. The research presented here examines these effects on Ligustrum japonicum during the establishment period. Plants were exposed to two irrigation treatments: short wetting and drying cycles (SC, 2 days) and long wetting and drying cycles (LC, 7 days). Intermittent water limitations (LC) resulted in new shoot dry mass reductions of ≈28% compared with well-irrigated counterparts, particularly diminishing leaf growth. Water limitation effects on root-to-shoot ratio were dependent on plant growth stage. LC increased root-to-shoot ratios only when plants were at shoot flush, resulting in poor correlations (r = 0.53) between this ratio and differential percent volumetric water content, which was directly influenced by irrigation frequency. Patterns of shoot and root growth varied considerably between these clonal plants, which may be an important consideration on analyses of populations of woody plants. Large periods of episodic growth were not observed for most of the experimental period, but only after plant establishment. Root growth was similar in both treatments and there was no clear arresting of root growth during the experimental period. SC plants started bud expansion earlier than LC and had more shoot flushes and cumulative shoot growing points. A 7-day irrigation cycle was sufficient to establish two-year-old L. japonicum plants; however, shoot growth was less pronounced than root growth compared with plants irrigated on a 2-day cycle.