Seasonal Variation in Growth, Nitrogen Uptake and Allocation by Container-grown Evergreen and Deciduous Rhododendron Cultivars
Scagel, C.F. | Bi, G. | Fuchigami, L.H. | Regan, R.P.
Growth, nitrogen (N) uptake, and N storage were assessed in transplanted 1-year-old rhododendron liners. Two evergreen cultivars, Rhododendron 'P. J. Mezitt Compact' (PJM) and R. 'English Roseum' (ER), and one deciduous cultivar, R. 'Gibraltar' (AZ), were transplanted into 1-gal. pots and given liquid fertilizer with (+N) or without (-N) N. Increased N availability increased growth after July (ER, PJM) or August (AZ), and resulted in three to five times more total biomass. Biomass continued to increase after stem elongation and leaf production ceased. Nitrogen uptake was correlated with growth of all plant structures on AZ, whereas N uptake was only correlated with stem and leaf growth on evergreen cultivars. The rate of N uptake was highest before July for AZ (1.9 mg.d(-1)) and in August and September for the evergreen cultivars (approximately equal to 5 mg.d(-1)). Thirteen percent to 16% of total N uptake from between May and February occurred after N fertilization ceased at the beginning of September. Plants contained the most N in October (AZ), November (PJM), or December (ER). Biomass loss after November accounted for a loss of 14% to 48% of the maximum total plant N content. Nitrogen demand by roots and stems increased from May to February in all cultivars. The role of new and old leaves in N storage on evergreen cultivars varied with cultivar and time. Differences in N storage between the evergreen cultivars occurred primarily in their roots and leaves. Over the winter, PJM stored more N in its roots, whereas ER stored more N in its leaves. Changes in N concentrations and contents in different plant structures after November indicate that, during early winter, N stored in other structures moves to roots and old stems of PJM, old stems of ER, and roots and new and old stems of AZ. These results suggest that fertilizer application strategies for transplanted liners of these cultivars should include low N availability after transplanting followed by high N availability in mid to late summer. This type of strategy will not only improve N uptake efficiency from fertilizer, but also will minimize N loss from the containers. The results also demonstrated that N uptake in the autumn may play an important role in supplementing plant N reserves required for growth during the next season as well as for balancing N losses incited by leaf abscission, root turnover, and maintenance functions that occur over winter.Show more [+] Less [-]