High Root-zone Temperatures, Mycorrhizal Fungi, Water Relations, and Root Hydraulic Conductivity of Container-grown Woody Plants

by S.E. Newman and Fred T. Davies, Jr.

High root-zone temperatures can stress container-grown plants and ultimately reduce nursery productivity in the southern United States. Water relations of glasshouse-grown Berberis thunbergii DC ‘Atropurpurea’ Buxus microphylla Seibold and Zucc japonica and Pittsporum tobira, (Thunb.) Ait. ‘Wheeler’ were studied under high temperature root-stress conditions using container-grown plants that were either colonized with vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (VAM) or noncolonized. Predawn xylem water potential in stems ( ) increased initially (more positive) in response to high root-zone temperatures (40 to 45C), and then decreased over a 5-day period. Stomatal conductance (g,) and evapotranspiration (ET) were reduced incrementally over time in response to high root-zone temperatures. Root damage occurred, as indicated by reductions in root quality and g, at 35 and 40 for B. thunbergii and P. tobira, and at 40 and 45 for the more high-temperature-resistant B. microphylla. Colonization increased gs and ET of B. microphylla at ambient (25) and high temperatures (45) and increased ET of B. thunbergii at 25. Colonized plants had lower (more negative) with initial exposure to increase root-zone temperatures: however, throughout the remainder of the study period there was little reduction in plant stress with the mycorrhizal isolates used. Root hydraulic conductivity (Lp) increased markedly in B. thunbergii compared to B. microphylla at 40 and 45, indicating less high-temperature resistance in B. thunbergii roots. Mycorrhizal colonization did not moderate hydraulic conductivity at high root-zone temperatures of 40 and 45. Of the two species, mycorrhizal B. thunbergii had lower Lp at 25 and B. microphylla had lower Lp at 35.

J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 113 (1): 138-146. 1988.