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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 6, p. 1033-1038
    Received: Dec 6, 1976
    Accepted: July 8, 1977

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Water Uptake by Plants: I. Divided Root Experiments1

  1. W. N. Herkelrath,
  2. E. E. Miller and
  3. W. R. Gardner2



The influence of soil water content and soil water potential upon root water uptake was investigated in a controlled laboratory environment. Water extraction rates by roots of winter wheat were measured in situ in a soil column instrumented with a gamma-ray attenuation water-content meter, tensiometers, and psychrometers. In addition, the leaf water potential was measured with an in situ leaf hygrometer. In order to measure the vertical distribution of water uptake, the column was divided into five sections by wax layers which were penetrated by roots, but which prevented movement of water between sections in the soil. A measurement of the average root potential was obtained by allowing a thin “test section” of soil to dry toward equilibrium with the root water potential while the rest of the soil was kept wet. Although 86% of the root zone soil was at a water potential above about −0.1 bar, the roots dried the test section to a potential of −5 hars, indicating a root potential at least this low. Because the average leaf water potential was also −5 bars, the data imply that whereas there was little flow resistance between the roots and the leaves, the resistance to flow between the soil and the root xylem was large. Root extraction rates hegan to decrease rapldly when the soil water content fell below about 0.10 cm3 water/cm3, corresponding to a soil water potential of about −0.1 bar. This result agrees with data in the literature, but is at variance with the soil-water diffusivity-based root uptake model, which predicts little effect of soil dryness upon root uptake at high soil moisture potential.

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