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Leonardo Lombardini, Moreno Toselli, and James A. Flore

Instrumentation to measure soil respiration is currently readily available. However, the relationship between soil respiration and root activity or root mass is not known. Herein we report on preliminary result using a 13CO2 pulse to the foliage to determine if 13C respiration can be related to either root activity or root mass. An experiment was performed in the field on a 5-year-old apple tree (cv. Jonagold on M7). The tree canopy was enclosed in a Mylar® balloon and 2.1 g 13CO2 were pulsed in the balloon for 1 hr. After the pulse, air emitted by the soil and selected roots was collected every 6 hr for 8 days, by bubbling it in 2 M NaOH. 13C/12C ratios were measured with the mass spectrometer. The emission of 13CO2 from the roots gradually increased after the pulse reaching a peak after 100 hr. The emission trend was not linear, but it seemed related to soil temperature. Leaves and fruit were also collected daily. 13C content in leaves was 1.15% right after the pulse, but it progressively decreased to 1.09% at the end of the experiment. The experiment was then repeated on 12 potted apple trees (cv. Redcort on M7) in greenhouse conditions. Six of them were maintained well-watered, whereas six plants were subjected to a mild water stress, by watering them with half of the volume of water used for well-watered plants. After the two soil moisture levels were achieved, the tree canopies of all the 12 trees were pulsed. Leaves, stems, and roots were ground and run in the mass spectrometer. The results of root emission rate were found to be similar to the field experiment. Results also indicated that, in our experiment, stress did not affect root respiration rate. Specific details of the physiology data will be presented.

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Moreno Toselli, James A. Flore, and Bruno Marangoni

Low root-zone temperature is one of the potential causes of low rate of plant nutrient uptake in spring. In this period, fruit trees are frequently supplied with nitrogen and a delay in root absorption could lead to an increase of nitrate leaching. In this study we assessed the effect of low root temperature on kinetic of nitrogen absorption of apple trees. One-year-old rooted cuttings of `Mark' apple rootstocks were subjected to two root temperature: 8 ± 1°C (LT) and 23 ± 1°C (HT). Four days after treatment imposition, the potted plants were supplied with 20 mg of N as NH4N03, enriched with 10 atom% of 15N. One, 2, 4, and 8 days after fertilization, tree root system was inserted into a Sholander bomb where a 0.325-Mpa pressure was applied to collect the xylem sap from the stem cross section. The sap exudation rate was always depressed by low root temperature. Nitrogen flow through the xylem vessel was highest in HT plants the day after fertilization (10-fold higher than LT), then decreased constantly. In LT plants, N flow was low the first and the second day after fertilization then reached the maximum 4 days after fertilization, when it was significantly higher than in HT plants. The amount of fertilizer-N found in leaves reflected the different movement rate of N observed in the two treatments. In HT trees fertilizer-N reached a plateau 2 days after fertilization, while in LT it linearly increased over time. This results suggest that root zone temperature of 8°C, although causes a delay (2–4 days) in nitrogen uptake, does not represent a serious limiting factor for N nutrition of tested apple trees.

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Moreno Toselli, Costanza Zavalloni, Bruno Marangoni, and James A. Flore

15Nitrogen-ammonium nitrate was applied to four `Mutsu' apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees 40 days before harvest of 1996 (summer supplied nitrogen, SUN) and four others at full bloom in 1997 (spring supplied nitrogen, SPN) to evaluate the effect of application timing on N partitioning in mature trees. At leaf fall the largest amount of SUN was partitioned to roots and 2- to 4-year-old wood; the largest amount of SPN was partitioned to fruit and leaves and only a small amount detected in the roots. SUN did not increase N concentration in fruit or modify fruit firmness and soluble solids concentration, although it contributed to building up N reserves in the perennial woody organs. In 1997, as a result of the different timings of N supply, two sources of labeled N were distinguished and monitored in the vegetative organs: 1) the remobilized N, taken up in summer of 1996, stored in winter and then translocated to the growing tissues; 2) the newly absorbed N, taken up and moved to the canopy after the 1997 spring supply. Both fractions of remobilized and newly uptaken labeled N contributed to leaf and fruit N. Remobilized 15N was provided principally by roots which, from August to leaf fall, decreased their percentage of 15N by ≈18%, replacing the labeled with unlabeled N to maintain a constant concentration of total N.