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Relationships between shoot and root growth of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants under various environmental stresses

Chung, G. C.
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::070601 Horticultural Crop Growth and Development
The response of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants to various root and shoot environments (solution depth, temperature, ionic strength, nitrogen and calcium level and light intensity) were studied. Cucumber plants were grown in continuously circulating-solution in a heated-glasshouse. Dry weights of leaves, stems and roots, leaf area, leaf number, root length and root number were measured as well as uptake of potassium, calcium and nitrogen. The relationship between shoot and root in terms of functional equilibrium equations was also examined. The results presented show that: 1. Shoot growth of cucumber plants was reduced if grown in solutions of less than 50mm in depth; 2. When roots were grown in shallow solution depths at 1 or 5mm the dry weight allocated to the root increased. The ratio of root number/root length(no./cm) also increased. Lowering solution temperature to 12.5±2.5°C enhanced the production of root number relctive to root length, and 5 and 2% of full strength and 5% of full strength nitrogen level solution stimulated the growth of root length relative to root number; 3. Under low solution temperature treatment leaf number was maintained at the expense of leaf area. Under low total ionic strength and low nitrogen solution, enhanced root length growth was at the expense of leaf area growth; 4. Low solution temperature enhanced the dry weight allocated to the stem relative to the leaf. Low total ionic strength and low nitrogen solution increased the dry weight allocated to the leaf relative to the stem; 5. The specific activity of root, represented by specific absorption rate, increased when the shoot was under light stress and, the specific activity of shoot, represented by unit shoot rate, increased when the root was under nitrogen-stress; 6. The form of equation developed by Thornley (∆M = fm∆W, where ∆M is the increment in weight of element M and ∆W the increment in total plant dry weight during a time period ∆t with fm a constant) showed a better relationship than the equation developed by Davidson [root mass x rate(absorption) ∝ leaf mass x rate(photosynthesis)] and subsequently used by Hunt in the form of mass ratio(root/shoot) ∝ l/activity ratio; 7. The equation developed by Chung et al, total plant weight/(leaf number/leaf area) ∝ total "k"/(root number/root length), where k represents the total contents of elements or compounds, showed a good approximation of the relationship between shoot and root under all the environmental stresses imposed with the exception of calcium uptake. The results support the concept that the activity of the root or shoot in carrying out its function is influenced by the demand created by the opposite organ and appears to be a better assumption than that which proposes that the activity of an organ is solely dependent on its own size.
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