, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 353-362

Influence of summer rainfall on root and shoot growth of a cold-winter desert shrub, Atriplex confertifolia

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The influence of irrigation and nitrogen fertilization in early summer on root and shoot growth of Atriplex confertifolia, a C4 shrub species, was examined in a cold-winter desert community in northern Utah. Soil water and xylem pressure potentials were monitored during the summer period.

At the time of watering the surface soil (0–30 cm) was dry but there were turgid fine roots in this horizon. Watering of the soil reduced plant water stress from-30 to-15 bars (dawn values) indicating that roots near the surface were capable of absorbing water, and induced root growth in the 0–30 cm zone. The addition of N to the water treatment did not further increase root production. However, watering and watering +N fertilizer failed to stimulate shoot elongation or any dry weight increase of shoots. This shoot dormancy during summer is not typical of C4 plants and is probably associated with adaptation to the cool arid environment.