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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Loblolly Pine Root Growth and Distribution under Water Stress


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 62 No. 3, p. 818-827
    Received: July 25, 1996

    * Corresponding author(s): storrean@sewanee.edu
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  1. Scott J. Torreano  and
  2. Lawrence A. Morris
  1. Dep. of Forestry and Geology, The Univ. of the South, Sewanee, TN 37383-1000
    Warnell School of Forest Resources, Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602



A rhizotron study was conducted to assess the relationship between soil water availability and shoot and root growth of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) under conditions where O2 availability and mechanical resistance were considered not limiting. Relationships between soil water availability and (i) root growth rate, (ii) root distribution, (iii) growth periodicity, and (iv) above- and belowground allocation were evaluated under four watering regimes ranging from maintaining profile near field capacity (WK 1) to withholding moisture for 4 wk (WK 4). The final distribution of cumulative root growth was similar among watering treatments, even though root growth shifted downward with depth during the growing period due to water depletion in surface soils. Relative root elongation rates were found to be linearly related to soil water potential. The strength of this relationship was improved by considering only periods of active root growth. Reductions in above- and belowground growth were proportional among water-restricting treatments. Stem volume and root growth in the driest treatments were reduced 46 and 41%, respectively, compared with the WK 1 cells, indicating that patterns of biomass allocation above and below ground were similar among treatments. In the absence of other limiting soil factors, flushes of root growth in this study were a function of relatively short-term changes in soil water potential. Our results indicate that when maximum tree biomass is desired, management efforts in establishing pine should be aimed at reducing any restrictions to root growth during establishment.

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