Seasonal patterns of radial root growth and starch dynamics in plantation-grown Sitka spruce trees of different ages

Tree Physiol. 1986 Dec;1(3):241-51. doi: 10.1093/treephys/1.3.241.


Seasonal patterns of radial root growth within 1 m of tree stems were examined in Scottish plantations of Sitka spruce trees aged 9, 15 and 20 years. Results were compared with parallel measurements of shoot extension, radial growth of stems and amounts of starch stored in tissues external to root wood. Youngest trees produced the largest annual increments in root cross-sectional area and numbers of new cells along radial files of tracheids. Irrespective of tree age, new cells were present in roots before bud burst and the onset of radial growth occurred progressively later with increasing distances from the stems. At ages 15 and 20, both stem cross-sectional area and radial root growth up to 0.5 m from the stem base had a minor peak of activity preceding and a major peak following shoot elongation. Further than 0.5 m from the stem, root growth was frequently restricted to the period following shoot extension. Starch storage in the roots reached a maximum in April and May, which was greatest for 9-year-old trees and least for 20-year-old trees. At all ages, radial root growth in early spring occurred concurrently with increased starch storage. Later in the season starch reserves declined rapidly during the period of shoot elongation and root growth occurred whilst reserves were low. At all ages for positions on the root at the base of the stem and 0.25 m from it, starch depletion, at its maximum rate during June, accounted for less than the measured increment of root wood growth at that point. This indicates a substantial translocation of substrates to these zones during growth. At the same time, the reduction in starch concentrations at more distal points from the stem far exceeded that required for local root thickening.