Water relations and root activities of Buchloe dactyloides and Zoysia japonica in response to localized soil drying
Effects of localized soil drought stress on water relations, root growth, and nutrient uptake were examined in drought tolerant ‘Prairie’ buffalograss [Buchloe dactyloides (Nutt.) Engelm.] and sensitive ‘Meyer’ zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica Steud.). Grasses were grown in small rhizotrons in a greenhouse and subjected to three soil moisture regimes: (1) watering the entire 80-cm soil profile (well-watered control); (2) drying 0–40 cm soil and watering the lower 40 cm (partially dried); (3) and drying the entire soil profile (fully dried). Drying the 0–40 cm soil for 28 days had no effect on leaf water potential (Ψleaf) in Prairie buffalograss compared to the well-watered control but reduced that in Meyer zoysiagrass. Root elongation rate was greater for Prairie buffalograss than Meyer zoysiagrass under well-watered or fully dried conditions. Rooting depth increased with surface soil drying; with Prairie buffalograss having a larger proportion of roots in the lower 40 cm than Meyer zoysiagrass. The higher rates of water uptake in the deeper soil profile in the partially dried compared to the well-watered treatment and by Prairie buffalograss compared to Meyer zoysiagrass could be due to differences in root distribution. Root 15N uptake for Prairie buffalograss was higher in 0–20 cm drying soil in the partially dried treatment than in the fully dried treatment. Diurnal fluctuations in soil water content in the upper 20 cm of soil when the lower 40 cm were well-watered indicated water efflux from the deeper roots to the drying surface soil. This could help sustain root growth, maintain nutrient uptake in the upper drying soil layer, and prolong turfgrass growth under localized drying conditions, especially for the deep-rooted Prairie buffalograss.
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