Roger Kjelgren
Growth and water relations of Kentucky coffee tree in protective shelters during establishment
HortScience. 29(7): 777-780
Growth and water relations of Kentucky coffee tree [Gymnocladus dioica (L.) K. Koch] whips in translucent tubelike shelters were investigated. In a container study, 1.2-m-high shelters were placed over whips following transplanting, then diurnal microclimate, water relations, and water use were measured. Shelter air temperature and vapor pressure were substantially higher, and solar radiation was 70% lower, than ambient conditions. Sheltered trees responded with nearly three-times higher stomatal conductance than nonsheltered trees. However, due to substantially lower boundary layer conductance created by the shelter, normalized water use was 40% lower. In a second experiment, same-sized shelters were placed on whips following spring transplanting in the field. Predawn and midday leaf water potentials and midday stomatal conductance (gs) were monitored periodically through the season, and growth was measured in late summer. Midday gs was also much higher in field-grown trees with shelters than in those without. Sheltered trees in the field had four times greater terminal shoot elongation but 40% less stem diameter growth. Attenuated radiation in the shelters and lower specific leaf area of sheltered trees indicated shade acclimation. Shelters can improve height and reduce water loss during establishment in a field nursery, but they do not allow for sufficient trunk growth.