Influence of stockplant management on yield and subsequent rooting of cuttings of cold-tolerant Eucalyptus grandis x E. nitens clones.
Clones of the Eucalyptus grandis x Eucayptus nitens (GN) hybrids were produced and selected through the CSIR‟s breeding programmes for colder plantation sites in South Africa. Some GN clones consistently exhibit high and superior pulp properties, which makes them valuable for commercial plantations in South Africa. In nurseries, stockplants are usually seven cm in length and maintained at high (100 x1.5 m-2) planting density. However, rooting frequency varies with season and little is known about the impact of position of cuttings on overall rooting frequency of a clone. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of size and planting density of stockplants in mini-hedges, on the yield and subsequent rooting of cuttings from various positions of GN clones of known rooting potential (i.e. GN 018B: difficult-to-root and PP 2107: easy-to-root clones). Stockplants (10 cm vs. 20 cm) were established at high (100 x 1.5 m-2) and at low (25 x 1.5 m-2) densities for GN 018B and PP 2107 under commercial nursery conditions in a polyethylene tunnel. Cuttings were harvested every two to three weeks in September-October 2010 (spring), December 2010-January 2011 (summer), April-May 2011 (autumn) and June-July 2011 (winter). The harvested material was 5 – 7 cm in length and the light intensity received by individual stockplants at the two planting density levels was recorded. Harvested cuttings from the three positions (apical, middle and basal shoots) were used for: (i) rooting experiments under nursery conditions, (ii) bio-stimulant analysis using the mung bean bioassay, and (iii) analysis of soluble sugars. Between spring and summer 2010, the two GN clones established at low density yielded a similar number of cuttings, but differences in the rooting frequencies were significant in favour of PP 2107 clone. Similar observations were made at high density in terms of production of cuttings, but the significant differences in the rooting observations were reversed between the clones. The GN 018B clone had low rooting rates in summer under nursery conditions but its tissue extracts promoted higher rooting in the bioassay during that time, when compared to spring. Spring and summer had similar effects on rooting responses of PP 2107 cuttings in nursery and bioassay experiments. For both clones, short stockplants produced fewer cuttings but had a higher rooting frequency than cuttings from tall stockplants, with a high rooting frequency recorded from basal cuttings. Similar results were observed in the bioassay experiments which showed high rooting potential of mung bean hypocotyls cuttings using tissue extracts of PP 2107 cuttings maintained at high planting density. Although apical cutting tissues had high concentration of sugars (i.e. sucrose, glucose and fructose), their rooting rates were usually lower at high and low planting density compared to middle and basal cuttings. Sucrose concentration was the highest sugar present in stockplants grown under low planting density. A higher and lower rooting frequency was also observed in autumn although the two clones responded differently to Quambalaria eucalypti (Sporothrix eucalypti) disease infestations. Position, size and genotype had a significant impact on type and concentration of sugar (i.e. sucrose, glucose and fructose), particularly in PP 2107 clone, although rooting rates in the bioassay did not correlate with sugar contents of Eucalyptus cuttings. High carbohydrate (i.e. soluble sugar) content and auxin concentration increased production and subsequent rooting of cuttings across both clones, particularly in spring. Furthermore, rooting was enhanced by relatively higher light intensity intercepted by individual stockplants and in particular the GN 018B clone. Light intensity in the high and low planting densities caused variation in the rooting frequencies thereby increasing or decreasing soluble sugar and auxin concentrations of the two clones. Light intensity and fertiliser concentration received by tall and short stockplants impacted on endogenous hormone levels thereby increasing or decreasing rooting. High sugar concentration levels of PP 2107 clone increased its susceptibility to fungal infection thereby decreasing its rooting frequency in autumn, as its rooting rates increased in winter. Overall results of the investigation revealed that PP 2107 clone has higher rooting potential than GN 018B clone, in particular at high planting density and if stockplants are not infected by fungal diseases. Higher sugar levels were recorded in spring for PP 2107, although rooting rates of mung bean hypocotyl cuttings were higher in summer for GN 018B, suggesting that sugars have nothing to do with rooting of GN cuttings. Season, planting density and size of stockplants affect the rooting frequency of GN clone. Thus, short stockplants maintained at low and high planting densities are recommended for GN 018B and PP 2107 respectively, although the impacts of fertilisers and pathogen resistance on rooting rates still need to be investigated under similar conditions.
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