Citrus root responses to localized drying soil: A new approach to studying mycorrhizal effects on the roots of mature trees
Because fine roots tend to be concentrated at the soil surface, exposure to dry surface soil can have a large influence on patterns of root growth, death and respiration. We studied the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM) formation on specific root length (SRL), respiration and mortality of fine roots of bearing red grapefruit (Citrus paradisi Macf.) trees on Volkamer lemon (C. volkameriana Tan. & Pasq.) rootstock exposed to drying soil. For each tree, the fine roots were removed from two woody lateral roots, the roots were surface sterilized and then each woody root was placed in a separate pair of vertically divided and independently irrigated soil compartments. The two split-pot systems were filled with sterilized soil and one was inoculated with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Glomus etunicatum/G. intraradices). New fine lateral roots that emerged from the woody laterals were permitted to grow inside the pots over a 10-month period. Irrigation was then removed from the top compartment for a 15-week period. At the end of the study, roots inoculated with AM fungi exhibited about 20% incidence of AM formation, whereas the uninoculated roots were completely void of AM fungi. Arbuscular mycorrhizal roots exhibited lower SRL, lower root/soil respiration and about 10% lower fine root mortality than nonmycorrhizal roots after 15 weeks of exposure to dry surface soil. This study demonstrates the feasibility of examining mycorrhizal effects on the fine roots of adult trees in the field using simple inexpensive methods.
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