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  • Author or Editor: Steve A. Weinbaum x
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It has been proposed that a pool of amino N, whose size is determined by aboveground N demand, cycles in the plant and regulates soil N uptake by exerting an inhibitory effect at the root level. Several experiments were carried out to study this hypothesis in almond trees [Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb]. Based on the evidence found, there is an association, at the whole tree level, between sap N content and soil N uptake. The data are consistent with the possibility that increased phloem sap amino acids result in decreased uptake of soil N.

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The effect of water stress during the harvest period on carbohydrate reserves at the end of the growing season was studied for mature, field-grown almond trees. The following irrigation treatments were imposed during 1995, 1996, and 1997: a) full irrigation (FI) (irrigation every 3–7 days), b) moderate stress (MS) (18 days of irrigation cut-off), and c) severe stress (SS) (35, 47, and 53 days of irrigation cut-off for 1995, 1996, and 1997, respectively). Midday stem (Yms) and predawn leaf (Ypd) water potentials were monitored during each season's stress. Three trees of contrasting treatments (FI vs. SS) were excavated on 10 Dec. 1997 and divided into tree components for dry weight and TNC concentration determination. Although there was no significant difference in whole-tree biomass between the excavated FI and SS trees, total new stem growth of SS trees was half of FI trees. TNC concentrations in the organs of SS trees were significantly reduced compared to FI trees. Total calculated whole tree TNC content for SS trees was 26.1% less than FI trees. The difference in TNC content between FI and SS trees was larger for roots (34.9%) than for the aerial parts (21.1%) indicating the higher sensitivity of roots for reflecting reserve status. Although roots constituted just 13.4% of the whole tree biomass, they stored 36.4% of TNC. Only roots exhibited a clear association between the minimum values of Yms and Ypd during the season and TNC concentration of 12 non-excavated additional trees that were subsampled at the end of the growing season.

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The interrelationships between crop load, root growth, and nutrient uptake in mature, pistachio trees were examined in this study. Nutrient uptake was determined during the spring, summer, and fall using labeled nitrogen (15N) and boron (10B) and by differences in whole-tree accumulation between tree harvests for other nutrients (e.g., P, K, Ca, Zn). Nitrogen and boron uptake were double in fruiting compared with nonfruiting trees in the spring. Most of the labeled N was found in the developing fruits and leaves. Total labeled N recovery during the spring flush period, however, was low, indicating that much of the N in the fruit came from N reserves from within the tree rather than uptake from the soil. In contrast, significant amounts of N were taken up from the soil during the summer uptake period. Thus, our data support the hypothesis that sink demand (i.e., fruit development) conditions N uptake in pistachio. The relationship between root growth and N uptake was also examined in this study. Root observation chambers were constructed, and root growth determined by tracing roots growing up against the glass windows. Root length, root growth rate, relative root growth rate, and total tree fine root weight were all greater in nonfruiting compared to fruiting trees during the fruit development period (late May to mid-July). Surprisingly, fruiting trees had less root growth, but greater N uptake than nonfruiting trees during this period. This evidence suggests that N uptake is decoupled from root growth in mature pistachio trees.

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Contributions of nitrogen (N) fertilizer applications to nitrate pollution of groundwater is an increasing public health concern. In an effort to improve N fertilizer efficiency, a study was initiated to determine periods of tree N demand in mature, alternate bearing pistachio trees. Seasonal patterns of nitrogen accumulation in the branches (i.e. fruit, current year wood, one year old wood, and leaves) and roots were monitored monthly.

Branches from heavily fruiting trees contained almost six times more nitrogen than branches from light fruiting trees by September; a result of the large amount of N accumulated in the fruit. Nitrogen accumulated in the branches during the Spring growth flush and nut fill periods in both heavy and light fruiting trees. Root nitrate and total N concentrations, however, peaked during the Spring growth flush and subsequently decreased during nut fill. The relationship between tree N demand and the capacity for N uptake is discussed.

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