Regulated irrigation of woody ornamentals to improve plant quality and precondition against drought stress
Cameron, R., Harrison-Murray, R., Fordham, M., Wilkinson, S., Davies, W., Atkinson, C. and Else, M. (2008) Regulated irrigation of woody ornamentals to improve plant quality and precondition against drought stress. Annals of Applied Biology, 153 (1). pp. 49-61. ISSN 0003-4746
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7348.2008.00237.x
Regulated irrigation has the potential to improve crop quality in woody ornamentals by reducing excessive vigour and promoting a more compact habit. This research aimed to compare the effectiveness and the mode of action of two techniques, regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) and partial root drying (PRD), when applied to container-grown ornamentals through drip irrigation. Results showed that RDI and PRD reduced growth in Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', but in Forsythia x intermedia 'Lynwood', significant reductions were recorded only with RDI. Physiological measurements in Forsythia indicated that reductions in stomatal conductance (g(s)) occurred in both treatments, but those in the RDI tended to be more persistent. Reduced g(s) in PRD was consistent with the concept that chemical signals from the root can regulate stomatal aperture alone; however, the data also suggested that optimising the growth reduction required a moderate degree of shoot water deficit (i.e. a hydraulic signal to be imposed). As RDI was associated with tissue water deficit, it was used in a second experiment to determine the potential of this technique to precondition container-grown plants against subsequent drought stress (e.g. during retail stages or after planting out). Speed of acclimation would be important in a commercial context, and the results demonstrated that both slow and rapid imposition of RDI enabled Forsythia plants to acclimate against later drought events. This article discusses the potential to both improve ornamental plant quality and enhance tolerance to subsequent adverse conditions through controlled, regulated irrigation.