Shoot dieback in clipped young Golden Leyland (Cupressocyparis leylandii) trees - a physiological mechanism?
Taylor, N., Cameron, R.W.F. and Blanusa, T. (2008) Shoot dieback in clipped young Golden Leyland (Cupressocyparis leylandii) trees - a physiological mechanism? Arboricultural Journal , 31 (2). pp. 109-122.
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Shoot dieback is a problem in frequently trimmed Leyland hedges and is increasingly affecting gardeners’ choice of hedge trees, having a negative effect on a conifer nursery industry. Some damage can be attributed to the feeding by aphids, but it is unclear if there are also underlying physiological causes. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that shoot-clipping of conifer trees during adverse growing conditions (i.e. high air temperature and low soil moisture) could be leading to shoot ‘dieback’. Three-year-old Golden Leyland Cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Excalibur Gold’) plants were subjected to either a well-watered or droughted irrigation regime and placed in either a ‘hot’ (average day temperature = 40°C) or a ‘cool’ (average day temperature = 27°C) glasshouse compartment. Half of the plants from each glasshouse were clipped on Day 14 and again on Day 50. Measurements of soil moisture content (SMC), net CO2 assimilation rate (A), stomatal conductance (gs), branchlet xylem water potential (XWP), plant height and foliage colour were made. Within the clipped and unclipped treatments of both glasshouse compartments, plants from the droughted regime had significantly lower values for A, gs and XWP than those from the well-watered regime. However, there was no difference in these parameters between the hot and cool glasshouse compartments. The trends seen for A, gs and XWP of all treatments generally mirrored changes in SMC indicating a direct effect of water supply on these parameters. By the end of the experiment the overall foliage colour of plants from the hot glasshouse was darker than that of plants from the cool glasshouse and the overall foliage colour was also darker following shoot clipping. In general, shoot clipping led to increases in A, gs XWP and SMC. This may be due to the reduction in total leaf area leading to a greater supply of water for the remaining leaves. No shoot ‘dieback’ was observed in any treatment in response to drought stress or shoot-clipping.
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