Excavation of field-grown `Red Lady' and `Tainung #2' papaya plants was begun 3 months after transplanting to the field to characterize development of the papaya root system. The roots were separated into the taproot system and lateral roots within three size categories: <1, 1 to 5, and >5 mm. Length of the taproot system and the larger lateral roots was measured directly, and that of the smaller roots was determined using the line-intersect method. Mass of the various size categories was measured after drying at 70°C. A typical plant 3 months after field-planting was ≈ 60 cm tall and exhibited a root system radial spread of 34,636 cm2, total root length of 9613 cm, and total dry mass of 17.3 g. The taproot system accounted for >70% of the mass and <5% of the length of the root system. Lateral roots <1 mm in diameter accounted for <10% of the mass and >70% of the length of the root system. A typical plant during the heavy fruit set stage, about 6 months after field planting, was 175 cm tall and exhibited a root system radial spread of 101,736 cm2, total root length of 975 m, and total dry mass of 539 g. The taproot system accounted for ≈38% of the dry mass and <1% of the length of the root system. Lateral roots <1 mm in diameter accounted for ≈5% of the dry mass and 65% of the length of the root system. Plant age influenced root system characteristics more than cultivar, especially the proportional distribution of mass and length among the defined root classes.
The influence of partial root volume irrigation on water relations and expansion of roots and leaves of papaya plants was determined using split root containers. In one study, `Tainung #1' and Solo #8 seedling roots were trained into four compartments until well-established, then water was withheld from 0, 1, 2, or 3 quadrants. Mid-morning stomatal conductance and predawn relative leaf water content were not affected by the irrigation treatments. Similarly, relative root water content in the dry quadrants was not different from that in the watered quadrants. In a second study, `Red Lady' seedling roots were trained into four compartments which contained a 13 × 13-cm plexiglass observation window. After the plants were well-established, watering was continued in one of 4 (1:4) or four of four (4:4) quadrants. Leaf midrib and root extension were measured at 06:00 and 18:00 hr each day. Daily growth of roots in the dry quadrants was reduced 25% below that in the watered quadrants, and midrib extension of the 1:4 plants was reduced ≈10% below that of the 4:4 plants. Irrigation treatments did not influence the percentage of growth occurring during the diurnal and nocturnal periods. The dry quadrants of 1:4 plants were almost devoid of fine roots. The number of root tips on the observation windows of the 1:4 plants was reduced 43% in the dry quadrants and increased 22% in the wet quadrant compared with that for the 4:4 plants.
`Red Lady' papaya transplants were planted on a slope with a 30% to 35% grade and grown for 5 months. Excavation was used to determine root distribution on the uphill and downhill sides of the plants. Roots were separated into the taproot system and lateral roots on the uphill and downhill sides. The line intersect method was used to determine length of the lateral roots, and length of the taproot system was measured directly. All roots were dried at 70°C. The taproot system accounted for 2% of the total root length and 66% of the total root mass. Of the 130-m of lateral roots, 71% were located on the downhill side. Similarly, 69% of the dry mass of the lateral root system was located on the downhill side. Primary lateral roots on the uphill side of each plant developed horizontally, but some secondary lateral roots developed against gravity to maintain a portion of the root system close to the surface of the slope. Some of these lateral roots developed at angles of 55° to 60° above the horizontal.
`Red Lady' and `Tainung #1' papaya plants were grown in nursery trays with cells 5.1 cm in diameter. After 10 weeks, mean height of the `Red Lady' plants was 10.1 cm and that of the `Tainung #1' plants was 9.3 cm. Each of five plants per cultivar was planted between two root observation windows, one at 45 cm and the other at 95 cm. Roots reached the 45-cm observation window in 30 days, when mean height of the `Red Lady' plants was 18.7 cm and that of the `Tainung #1' plants was 13.0 cm. Roots reached the 95-cm observation window in 55 days, when mean height of the `Red Lady' plants was 55.4 cm and that of the `Tainung #1' plants was 40.6 cm. Thus, root extension during these initial 55 days was 17 to 18 mm per day for both cultivars, and stem extension during this period was 8.7 mm·d–1 for `Red Lady' and 5.5 mm per day for `Tainung #1'. Root extension declined for both cultivars to ≈12 mm·d–1 by the initial bloom period, then further declined to ≈4 mm·d–1 during and after the initial fruit set stage. Stem extension increased to about 19 mm·d–1 after the plants were established and remained at this rate until well into the stage of heavy fruit set and growth, when it declined to about 8 mm·d–1. The amount of fruit set influenced root characteristics more than cultivar.
`Known You 1' papaya seedlings were grown in split-root containers and fertilizer was applied to one (1/2) or two (2/2) halves of the root system to determine the influence on transport of assimilates from canopy to roots and transport of nitrogen from fertilized roots to non-fertilized roots and canopy. Following 6 weeks of growth, the plants were bare-rooted and the root system halves and canopy were dried to constant mass at 70°C. Tissue was then analyzed for total nitrogen content. Fertilization increased root mass more than 250% and total plant mass 300% compared with control plants, which received no fertilization during the 6 weeks. Total root or plant mass did not differ between the 1/2 and 2/2 plants. Roots were evenly distributed between the two halves for 2/2 plants, but the fertilized half in the 1/2 plants accounted for 60% of the total root mass. Nitrogen content of roots and canopy were increased by fertilization. Nitrogen content of the non-fertilized roots of 1/2 plants was not different from that of the fertilized roots. These results indicate that fertilizing a portion of the papaya root system increased the sink activity of that portion and that the absorbed nitrogen from that portion is efficiently transported throughout the plant.
`Honey Jean #3' sweet corn was planted in one-half of a split-root culture system containing `Tainung 1' or `Known You 1' papaya seedlings to determine if papaya roots could transfer water to the corn seedlings. After the corn seedlings were established, water was withheld from both compartments (2/2) or only the compartment containing the corn seedlings (1/2). Control plants were grown with both halves well-watered. Pre-dawn relative water content (RWC) of corn leaves was measured as an indicator of drought stress. Following 11 days, root competition was relieved in half of the 1/2 plants by cutting the papaya root connection between the half with corn from the rest of the papaya culture system. RWC of 1/2 corn plants was maintained above that of 2/2 plants, but below that of control plants. After relieving root competition, the 1/2 plants in competition with papaya roots maintained higher RWC than the 1/2 plants relieved of competition. Leaf tissue of all corn plants except the control plants was necrotic by 30 days. The results indicate that development of drought stress in corn using this culture system was retarded by watering a portion of the papaya roots not associated with the corn roots. Drought stress was accelerated by relief of competition with papaya, which is evidence that water was being supplied by the papaya roots within the papaya/corn system.
`Tainung 2' papaya seedlings were transplanted on 30 Jan. 1996 and irrigated with one, two, or three drip irrigation lines per row in one study and with 90°, 180°, or 360° microsprinkler spray patterns in a second study to determine the reproductive and vegetative growth responses to irrigation design. Variable irrigation duration was used to supply a homogeneous amount of water to each plant in the drip irrigation study. The trench profile method was used in the drip irrigation study, and a monolith method was used in the microsprinkler study to determine root distribution at the end of the dry season (30 May to 2 June). All fruits were harvested and weighed on 26 Aug. Roots proliferated underneath the drip lines during the dry season, and root concentration on the profile walls was inversely related to the number of drip lines. Root concentration underneath one drip line was 3.7 times greater, underneath two drip lines was 2.3 times greater, and underneath three drip lines was 1.9 times greater than root concentration in the non-irrigated zones. Roots also proliferated in the wetted zones of the microsprinkler spray patterns. Mean fruit weight and total harvested fruit weight did not differ among the irrigation treatments within each study. The results indicate that papaya roots are highly morphoplastic and proliferate in wetted zones under partial root volume irrigation. One drip line per row supplied ample irrigation coverage under the conditions of this study.
A laboratory exercise is outlined in which breath is used as the source for elevating CO2. Single-plant enclosures are constructed by placing containers with stem cuttings within clear bags for maintaining high humidity during root initiation. These enclosures provide a restricted atmosphere in which elevated CO2 is adequately confined. The materials are inexpensive and readily available. The procedure is rapid, with results obtained in as few as 7 days. The increase in canopy and/or root growth as a result of elevated CO2 may be observed visually by younger audiences, or may be measured and analyzed in a manner dependent on the age group. The exercise generates an abundance of discussion and may be used to lead into many lectures on plant physiology, horticultural crop production, or global concepts of CO2 and the plant kingdom.