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Survival of water-stressed Rhododendron subjected to freezing at fast or slow cooling rates

Survival of water-stressed Rhododendron subjected to freezing at fast or slow cooling rates

Hortscience 31(3): 357-360

The purpose of the present study was to determine whether water stress affects tolerance of Rhododendron L. 'Catawbiense Boursault' to rapid freezing. Tolerance to freezing at cooling rates of 2 or 6C/hour in stems and leaves of plants subjected to continuous and periodic water deficit stresses was examined. Under continuous stress treatments, water content of the growing medium was maintained in a range of 0.60 to 0.75, 0.45 to 0.60, or 0.30 to 0.45 m-3 cntdot m-3 between 24 Aug. 1992 and 11 Feb. 1994. Under periodic stress treatments, water content of the growing medium was maintained near field capacity, i.e., 0.6 to 0.8 m-3 cntdot m-3, for the duration of the study or plants were subjected to the periodic stress at various times between 15 July and 19 Feb. during 2 years. Watering of water-stressed plants was delayed until water content reached below 0.4 m-3 cntdot m-3, and then was resumed to maintain water content in the range of 0.3 to 0.4 m-3 cntdot m-3. Cold hardiness was evaluated in the laboratory with freeze tolerance tests on detached leaves and stem sections. In most cases, cooling at 6C/hour caused injury at higher temperature than cooling at 2C/hour. The difference in lethal temperature between the two cooling rates depended on the level of the plant's cold hardiness. In plants cold hardy to about -25C, freezing at 6C/hour caused injury at a temperature apprxeq 3C higher than freezing at 2C/hour. The effect of cooling rate was not evident in plants cold hardy to about -18C. Subjecting plants to continuous or periodic water stress did not have an effect on this relationship.

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