Journal Article

Hydraulic resistance components of mature apple trees on rootstocks of different vigours

Shabtai Cohen, Amos Naor, John Bennink, Avraham Grava and Melvin Tyree

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Published on behalf of Society for Experimental Biology

Volume 58, issue 15-16, pages 4213-4224
Published in print December 2007 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online December 2007 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jxb/erm281

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Dwarfing of fruit trees is often achieved through the use of dwarfing rootstocks. Dwarf trees are characterized by sustained reductions in vegetative growth during the lifetime of the tree. The dwarfing mechanism is not well understood, but it has been hypothesized that hydraulic properties of the rootstock and the graft union are involved. It is hypothesized here that leaf- or stem-specific resistance of at least one hydraulic component of the water transport system would be negatively correlated with rootstock ‘vigour’, and this could be useful for selection of rootstocks. Hydraulic resistance (R) of fully grown apple trees on a variety of rootstocks of different ‘vigours’ was measured. Most measurements were with the evaporative flux (EF) method, where water uptake measured with sap flow sensors was related to the pressure gradient from soil (taken as pre-dawn leaf) and midday root (taken as covered root-sucker), stem (from covered leaf), and exposed and shaded leaf water potentials (Ψl). R of trees on dwarfing M9 rootstock was compared with that of more vigorous MM106 and MM111 rootstocks in Israel and Vermont, USA. In Israel, M9 consistently had higher leaf-specific hydraulic resistance (Rl) in the soil to scion stem pathway, but this difference was only significant for one summer. R was larger in M9 between the root and stem, implicating the graft union as the site of increased resistance. In Vermont, Rl of 9- and 10-year-old trees on six rootstocks of various vigours was not consistently related to vigour, and stem-specific resistance (Rs) increased with increasing vigour. High pressure flow meter (HPFM) measurements gave a lower R than the EF method in all but one case, perhaps indicating a significant amount of xylem dysfunction in these trees, and demonstrated the increased resistivity of stem sections that included dwarf graft unions as compared with non-graft stem sections. It is concluded that stem- and leaf-specific R are not consistently positively correlated with dwarfing, although the increased resistivity of the graft union in dwarfing rootstocks may influence the transport of water and other elements across the graft union, and therefore be involved in the dwarfing mechanism.

Keywords: Conductance; dwarfing; graft union; Malus domestica; scion

Journal Article.  7918 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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