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Keywords:

  • predawn leaf water potential;
  • Quercus ilex;
  • Quercus rubra;
  • Quercus suber;
  • stomatal conductance;
  • water relations

The combination of soil infestation with Phytophthora cinnamomi and repetitive flooding was studied on 1-year-old plants of Quercus ilex (holm oak) and Q. suber (cork oak). In a second experiment, using 2-year-old plants of the same species and of red oak (Q. rubra), the soil infestation was followed by two drought-rewatering cycles. Oak predawn leaf water potential (PLWP) and stomatal conductance (gs) were monitored during both experiments. Root infection, root loss, wilting and mortality were assessed at the end of the experiments. Q. ilex exhibited the highest susceptibility to P. cinnamomi, and Q. rubra the lowest. Root infections caused by P. cinnamomi were more severe in the flooding than in the drought experiment. The most noticeable effect of the infection on plant water relations was a decrease in stomatal conductance. This occurred at different times after inoculation, varying with species susceptibility and experiment. Inoculation with P. cinnamomi induced a decrease of PLWP in Q. ilex plants, and in some Q. suber plants exhibiting a severe root loss. The results further showed that the relationship between PLWP and gs was modified by infection with P. cinnamomi. The combination of flooding and infection with P. cinnamomi acted synergistically on the water relations of Q. ilex. By contrast, there was no significant increase in disease severity due to the postinoculation water stress imposed on the oaks.