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Changes in growth rate, root morphology and water use efficiency of potted Callistemon citrinus plants in response to different levels of water deficit

Álvarez, Sara, Sánchez-Blanco, Mª Jesús
Scientia horticulturae 2013 v.156 pp. 54-62
Callistemon citrinus, color, containers, deficit irrigation, flowering, landscaping, leaf water potential, leaves, photosynthesis, plant nurseries, plant response, root systems, roots, shoots, shrubs, stems, stomatal conductance, water stress, water use efficiency, Mediterranean region
Callistemon is widely used as a flowering shrub in gardening and landscaping in the Mediterranean area. However, prolonged or severe water stress may alter its physiological and morphological behaviour. Callistemon citrinus plants were grown in nursery conditions and subjected to three irrigation treatments: a control (watered to container capacity) and two water deficit treatments of 50 and 25% of the amount of water supplied in the control treatment (moderate and severe deficit irrigation, respectively). After 53 weeks, the moderate deficit irrigation plants showed a lower relative growth rate but increased root/shoot ratio, improved the root system and increased water use efficiency, while flowering and leaf colour were unaffected. However, severe deficit irrigation reduced flowering and affected leaf colour. Both deficit irrigation treatments reduced stomatal conductance, suggesting an efficient and adaptive stomatal control in this species. These reductions were marked after longer periods in plants submitted to severe deficit irrigation, which decreased photosynthesis and could delay plant recovery and cause permanent damage. Differences between stem and leaf water potential values have seen to be a good indicator of instantaneous shoot transpiration. Water consumption was influenced by the active periods of growth and inflorescence formation. It is concluded that moderate deficit irrigation can be used successfully in C. citrinus plant production to reduce water consumption while maintaining good overall quality.