Seasonal changes in starch and sugar content of poplar (Populus deltoides x nigra cv. Dorskamp) and the impact of stem girdling on carbohydrate allocation to roots.

Tree physiology

PubMedID: 20538808

Regier N, Streb S, Zeeman SC, Frey B. Seasonal changes in starch and sugar content of poplar (Populus deltoides x nigra cv. Dorskamp) and the impact of stem girdling on carbohydrate allocation to roots. Tree Physiol. 2010;30(8):979-87.
Trees need to store reserves to allow their survival during winter and for bud flush and leaf growth in the following spring. In many tree species, these reserve functions are mainly covered by starch, which is degraded to soluble carbohydrates during the dormant season for maintenance respiration and in spring during bud flush. We conducted girdling experiments on poplar (Populus deltoides x nigra cv. Dorskamp) in order to elucidate how interrupted transport of carbohydrates to the roots during autumn affects plant survival during winter and bud flush in spring. We measured the content of starch, sucrose, glucose, fructose, raffinose and stachyose in stems (above and below the girdle), coarse roots and fine roots over 1 year. We found that, in response to girdling, carbohydrates accumulated in stems above the girdle. As a result of interrupted reserve allocation, girdled plants depleted their root starch reserves nearly to zero, whereas in stems below the girdle, reserves were maintained close to control values, presumably in order to facilitate dormancy release and re-sprouting from buds below the girdle. Furthermore, we showed that stachyose accumulated during winter also in the roots, even in girdled plants, consistent with its importance as freezing protectant. The lower stachyose content of roots compared with shoots was likely due to protection of the roots from cold by the soil.