, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp 249-257

The effect of moisture stress on stolon and adventitious root development in white clover (Trifolium repens L.)

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Humidity, at the young nodes of white clover stolones, varied by enclosing nodes in the atmosphere above a range of saturated solutions, inhibited root initiation at 85% RH or less. The threshold humidity for root initiation increased to about 93% on young nodes subject to moisture stress or old nodes on well watered plants in which root initiation had been previously suppressed by low humidity.

Roots at old nodes and at the three youngest on stolons were either subject to moisture stress or adequately watered. Growth of young roots and N2-fixation were more adversely affected by the direct effects of drought than by subjecting old roots to drought. Although old roots under stress affected new root growth and N2-fixation, length of roots and lateral root number were little affected. By contrast stolon growth was affected more by stress to old roots than to young nodes, although after 6 weeks the contribution made by young roots to stolon growth was almost as high as old roots.

The data suggest that deep roots at old nodes will allow clover stolons to grow during drought due to the high acropetal movement of water but initiation of roots and functioning of young roots at the soil surface will be adversely affected, with possible implications on the persistence of clover.