Water relations of woody perennial plant species

Field irrigation experiments were performed on young « Nonpareil » almond trees, mature « Bartlett » pear trees and mature « Pinot Noir » grapevines, to determine the relation of a number of alternative measures of plant water status (predawn and midday stem and leaf water potential), to a number of indices of plant physiological activity (leaf conductance, vegetative growth and fruit growth and composition). Almonds were exposed to three levels of irrigation over three years, and midday stem water potential (SWP) and leaf conductance, collected at approximately weekly intervals, is reported for the third year of the study. A strong linear increase in both leaf conductance and trunk growth occurred with increasing SWP, and this relation was consistent both within and between treatments. A similarly positive linear relation was found between SWP and fruit size in pear, with a negative relation between SWP and fruit soluble solids and fruit color. In grapevine, SWP was found to be uniform across all lower canopy positions tested (trunk, cordon and near the base of current year shoots) and positively correlated to early season shoot growth even before irrigation treatments were applied. Midday SWP was found to be more sensitive than midday leaf water potential (LWP) for detecting treatment differences over the course of the season, but both were well correlated to average seasonal leaf conductance within and between irrigation treatments. Predawn SWP and LWP were not as well correlated to average seasonal leaf conductance, but the most important factor determining midday leaf conductance was wind speed, indicating that grape leaf stomatal responses are quite sensitive to this environmental factor.

Author: Kenneth A. SHACKEL

Department of Plant Sciences/Pomology
University of California
Davis, CA, USA, 95616-8683

Email: kashackel@ucdavis.edu

Keywords: Stem water potential, SWP, leaf water potential, LWP, predawn, midday, leaf conductance, fruit growth, fruit quality

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