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Georgios Psarras and Ian A. Merwin

One-year-old potted `Mutsu' apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] trees on scion invigorating Malling-Merton 111 (MM.111) and scion dwarfing Malling 9 (M.9) rootstocks were grown outdoors in containers under three levels of water availability (irrigated at -20, -80, and -200 kPa) to investigate the effects of soil water availability on combined soil/root (rhizosphere) respiration rates, and developmental morphology of root systems. Rhizosphere respiration was measured with a portable infrared gas analyzer, and root biomass was estimated by electrical capacitance. These nondestructive measurements were compared with final root dry weights of harvested trees, to determine their reliability for estimating relative differences in root biomass. Water stress reduced final biomass similarly for both rootstocks, but the relative reduction in shoot growth was greater for MM.111. Root to shoot ratios were higher and average specific root respiration was lower for M.9 rootstock compared with MM.111. M.9 appeared to be more tolerant of water stress then MM.111, due to reduced canopy transpiration relative to root system mass. Water stress increased root to shoot ratios, specific root length, and the carbohydrate costs of root maintenance as indicated by specific respiration rates. Root dry weight (DW) was better correlated to rhizosphere respiration than to root electric capacitance. The observed r 2 values between root capacitance and root DW were as high as 0.73, but capacitance measurements were also influenced by soil water content and rootstock type. Electrical capacitance estimated total root biomass more accurately for M.9 than for MM.111.

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Georgios Psarras and Ian A. Merwin

One-year-old potted `Mutsu' apple (Malus domestica) trees on MM.111 and M.9 rootstocks were grown outdoors from May to Nov. 1997, under three levels of soil-water availability (–20, –80, and –200 kPa), to evaluate the effects of water stress on soil/root respiration and root morphology. At weekly intervals, we measured soil/root respiration using a portable infrared gas analyzer and rootsystem size or functional activity using an electric capacitance meter. These observations were tested as nondestructive methods to estimate relative differences in root size and morphology in situ compared with final dry weight and form of excavated apple rootstocks. Root size-class distributions were estimated by digital imaging and analysis of harvested root systems. Root growth was substantially reduced by water stress; the magnitude of reduction was similar for both rootstocks, but the percentage of shoot growth reduction was higher for MM.111. Root: shoot ratios were higher and average specific respiration rates over the growing season were lower for M.9 root systems. Water stress increased the root: shoot ratio, specific root length, and carbon costs of root maintenance as indicated by specific respiration rates. Soil/root respiration was more closely correlated than root electric capacitance with actual root system size. The observed r 2 values between root capacitance and root dry weight were as high as 0.73, but root capacitance was also confounded by other factors, limiting its usefulness for nondestructive estimation of root size or activity. Rootstock genotype significantly affected root capacitance, which provided better estimates of root dry weight for M.9 than for MM.111.

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G. Psarras, I. Merwin, A. Lakso, and R. Zobel

We are evaluating techniques for measuring intact apple rootstock (Malus domestica cv. M.9 and MM.111) responses to low, medium, and high soil-water potential, and low, medium, and high concentrations of N, K, and Ca, in sterile sand culture. Root respiration and functional surface area were estimated with an IRGA chamber and electric capacitance meter, respectively. Root length and surface area were determined by digital image analysis of extracted root systems. Low N supply reduced root respiration, while low K levels increased respiration relative to well-nourished controls. Calcium effects were inconsistent among the rootstocks. Total root length and respiration rates of MM.111 were higher than M.9, but M.9 had higher root:shoot ratios. Root capacitance was correlated with total root length (P < 0.001); and M.9 root systems had greater capacitance than MM.111. In a related field experiment, root growth and respiration of 4-year-old `Mutsu' apple trees on M.9 rootstock were measured in soil under low and moderate drought stress established by rain exclusion shelters, using capacitance and IRGA meters, and a minirhizotron video camera inserted into Plexiglas tubes transecting the rhizosphere. Root growth rates peaked in July (coinciding with maximal shoot growth), then declined gradually during late summer; but variability among trees was greater than among water stress treatments. Root/soil respiration maxima of 4.5 μmol CO2/m2 per s occurred in mid June, late July (when new root counts peaked), and the end of August (when root turnover was maximal).