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Effects of oak root pruning in forest nurseries on potential pathogen infections

Łakomy, Piotr, Kuźmiński, Robert, Mucha, Joanna, Zadworny, Marcin
Forest pathology 2019 v.49 no.3 pp. e12513
Fusarium, Neonectria, Phytophthora, Pythium, Quercus robur, Rhizoctonia, biomass, forest nurseries, inoculum, leaf mass, risk, root pruning, root systems, roots, seedlings, shoots
Despite the general practice of root pruning, little is known about the potential impact of reducing shoot/root systems of oak seedlings in this way on their future susceptibility to pathogens, for example Cylindrocarpon spp., Fusarium spp., Ilyonectria spp., Pythium spp. Phytophthora spp. or Rhizoctonia spp. In this study, root‐pruned and non‐pruned seedlings of Quercus robur grown under controlled conditions were inoculated with aggressive and less‐aggressive pathogens. Results indicated, in contrast to our initial assumption, that pathogens significantly reduced lateral root biomass more in non‐pruned seedlings, the extent of the response depending on the pathogens species. In response to pathogen pressure, pruned seedlings tended to attain a higher dry stem mass fraction, but lower dry leaf mass fraction. Pathogens also suppressed leaf mass in total root dry mass fraction (dry leaf mass/total root dry mass ratio, in g × g⁻¹) more in pruned than in non‐pruned seedlings. These results suggest differences in growth between non‐pruned and pruned seedlings in response to pathogen stress. In nurseries, root pruning of oak trees may enhance the reduction in leaf mass in lateral roots mass fraction resulting from pathogen infections, which may decrease seedling quality. It is therefore important to ensure a low level of inoculum of soil‐borne pathogens to minimize the risk of seedling infection.