Roots directly affect planted seedling adaptation to new growing conditions at reforestation sites. To test the influence of root characteristics on the short-term response of seedlings to limiting resources (water, nutrient, or oxygen), we conducted two experiments. We compared (1) the growth and physiology of three types of four-year-old black spruce (Picea mariana
(Mill.) BSP) seedlings (Containerized, highly developed initial roots restricted to a plug; bareroot, less developed but unrestricted initial roots; deeply-planted containerized, restricted initial and adventitious roots) to different combinations of irrigation and fertilization. We also investigated (2) the cellular plasticity of adventitious and initial roots to three irrigation regimes including flooding. Bareroot seedlings had better relative growth rates in height than containerized seedlings, probably due to their larger initial size. On the other hand, containerized seedlings took better advantage of fertilization, as shown by a higher relative growth rate in diameter compared to bareroot seedlings and were less affected by water limitation, possibly due to the root plug acting as an additional water reserve capacity. For containerized seedlings, the presence of adventitious roots was beneficial to height growth and physiological performances compared to seedlings with initial roots only. Adventitious roots showed great cell plasticity, particularly under flooding conditions.
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