Root Water Uptake and Water Flow in the Soil–Root Domain

Authored by: Guillaume Lobet , Charles Hachez , François Chaumont , Mathieu Javaux , Xavier Draye

Plant Roots

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  April  2013

Print ISBN: 9781439846483
eBook ISBN: 9781439846490
Adobe ISBN:


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Water is by far the resource that plants absorb in largest amounts from their environment. However, only a tiny fraction of the water taken up is used for the production of new assimilates. The largest part is lost to the atmosphere as stomata open to allow diffusion of carbon dioxide into leaves. For maize alone, this expensive exploit represents annually ca. 3 × 1014 L of water worldwide, enough to fill 250 million Olympic swimming pools (London 2012 Olympic Games had two of them) (FAO 2012). Although transpiration prevents excessive heating of sunlit leaves and ensures long-distance transport of nutrients from the bulk soil to the upper plant organs, the contrasting transpiration efficiencies of C3 and C4 species is an indication that actual crop water use often exceeds theoretical requirements. However, the fact that breeding for reduced crop water use has often led to negative results (Blum 2005) stresses that a more detailed consideration of the dynamics of water fluxes in the soil–plant– atmosphere system is needed (Gregory et al. 2005).

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