Whole-plant frost hardiness of mycorrhizal (Hebeloma sp. or Suillus luteus) and non-mycorrhizal Scots pine seedlings.Tree Physiol. 2019 04 01; 39(4):526-535.TP
Ectomycorrhizal trees are common in the cold regions of the world, yet the role of the mycorrhizal symbiosis in plant cold tolerance is poorly known. Moreover, the standard methods for testing plant frost hardiness may not be adequate for roots and mycorrhizas. The aims of this study were to compare the frost hardiness of mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) seedlings and to test the use of reverse-flow root hydraulic conductance (Kr) measurement for root frost hardiness determination. Mycorrhizal (Hebeloma sp. or Suillus luteus) and non-mycorrhizal seedlings were grown in controlled-environment chambers for 13 weeks. After this, half of the plants were allotted to a non-hardening treatment (long day and high temperature, same as during the preceding growing season) and the other half to a hardening (short day and low temperature) 'autumn' treatment for 4 weeks. The intact seedlings were exposed to whole-plant freezing tests and the needle frost hardiness was measured by relative electrolyte leakage (REL) method. The seedlings were grown for three more weeks for visual damage assessment and Kr measurements using a high-pressure flow meter (HPFM). Mycorrhizas did not affect the frost hardiness of seedlings in either hardening treatment. The effect of the hardening treatment on frost hardiness was shown by REL and visual assessment of the aboveground parts as well as Kr of roots. Non-mycorrhizal plants were larger than mycorrhizal ones while nitrogen and phosphorus contents (per unit dry mass) were similar in all mycorrhiza treatments. In plants with no frost exposure, the non-mycorrhizal treatment had higher Kr. There was no mycorrhizal effect on plant frost hardiness when nutritional effects were excluded. Further studies are needed on the role of mycorrhizas especially in the recovery of growth and nutrient uptake in cold soils in the spring. The HPFM is useful novel method for assessment of root damage.