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  • Author or Editor: Scott Kalberer x
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Winter survival of temperate-zone woody perennials requires them to resist loss of frost hardiness (deacclimation) during winter and early spring thaws. However, little is known about deacclimation response in woody landscape plants. Moreover, what impact, if any, the degree of deacclimation has on reacclimation capacity has not been systematically studied. We used nine genotypes of deciduous azaleas (Rhododendron subgenus Pentanthera) to investigate effects of deacclimating conditions on bud cold hardiness and reacclimation ability. Dormant floral buds, with 3–5 cm stem attached, were collected in late December from field-grown plants, and placed in constant warm [22 °C 15 °C (D/N)] and humid conditions for increasing durations (0-day to 14-day) to stimulate deacclimation. Bud cold hardiness (lt 50) was determined (using logistic regressions) by evaluating immature flower survival at subfreezing treatment temperatures. Results indicated that azalea genotypes from colder provenances showed greater initial frost hardiness. Typically northern genotypes had slow to intermediate deacclimation rates, while rates of southern genotypes were intermediate to rapid. High initial frost hardiness was frequently associated with slow deacclimation. Buds retained the capacity to reacclimate upon cold exposure [2 °C/–2 °C; (12 h/12 h)] even after 8 days of deacclimation. Distinct differences were observed between the two latitudinal ecotypes of R. viscosum with respect to their initial bud hardiness, deacclimation rates, and reacclimation capacities. We suggest that the three attributes, i.e., high initial hardiness, slow deacclimation, and high reacclimation capacity, together may be important for winter-survival of azalea buds.

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Dehardening resistance and rehardening capacity in late winter and spring are important factors contributing to the winter survival of woody perennials. Previously the authors determined the midwinter hardiness, dehardening resistance, and rehardening capacities in deciduous azalea (Rhododendron L.) floral buds in early winter. The purpose of this study was to investigate how these parameters changed as winter progressed and to compare rehardening response at three treatment temperatures. Experiments were also conducted to measure bud water content during dehardening and chilling accumulation of 10 azalea genotypes. Buds of R. arborescens (Pursh) Torr., R. canadense (L.) Torr., R. canescens (Michx.) Sweet, and R. viscosum (L.) Torr. var. montanum Rehd. were acclimated in the field and were dehardened in the laboratory at controlled warm temperatures for various durations. Dehardened buds were rehardened for 24 hours at 2 to 4 °C, 0 °C, or –2 °C. Bud hardiness (LT50) was determined from visual estimates of freeze injury during a controlled freeze–thaw regime. The midwinter bud hardiness in the current study was ≈4 to 8 °C greater than in early winter. R. canadense and R. viscosum var. montanum dehardened to a larger extent in late winter than in the early winter study whereas R. arborescens and R. canescens did not. The rehardening capacities were larger in early than in late winter. Even though rehardening occurred throughout the first 8 days of dehardening (DOD) in early winter in the previous study, in the current study it was only observed after 10 DOD (R. viscosum var. montanum) or 15 DOD (R. arborescens). There was no difference among the rehardening capacities at the three rehardening temperatures for any genotype. Water content decreased throughout dehardening in all four genotypes examined. R. canadense had the lowest chilling requirement (CR) [450 chilling units (CU)], followed by R. atlanticum (Ashe) Rehd., R. austrinum (Small) Rehd., R. canescens, and R. calendulaceum (Michx.) Torr. with intermediate CR [820, 830, 830, and 1000 CU respectively). The CR of R. arborescens, R. prinophyllum (Small) Millais, R. prunifolium (Small) Millais, R. viscosum var. montanum, and R. viscosum var. serrulatum (Small) Millais exceeded 1180 CU. Results of this study indicate that the dehardening kinetics (magnitude and rate) and the rehardening capacity of azalea buds are influenced by the progression of winter and the depth of endodormancy.

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