A new experimental setup to measure hydraulic conductivity of plant segments


Krieger L., Schymanski S.J.


AoB PLANTS, vol. 15, n° 4, art. no. plad024, 2023


Plant hydraulic conductivity and its decline under water stress are the focal point of current plant hydraulic research. The common methods of measuring hydraulic conductivity control a pressure gradient to push water through plant samples, submitting them to conditions far away from those that are experienced in nature where flow is suction driven and determined by the leaf water demand. In this paper, we present two methods for measuring hydraulic conductivity under closer to natural conditions, an artificial plant setup and a horizontal syringe pump setup. Both approaches use suction to pull water through a plant sample while dynamically monitoring the flow rate and pressure gradients. The syringe setup presented here allows for controlling and rapidly changing flow and pressure conditions, enabling experimental assessment of rapid plant hydraulic responses to water stress. The setup also allows quantification of dynamic changes in water storage of plant samples. Our tests demonstrate that the syringe pump setup can reproduce hydraulic conductivity values measured using the current standard method based on pushing water under above-atmospheric pressure. Surprisingly, using both the traditional and our new syringe pump setup, we found a positive correlation between changes in flow rate and hydraulic conductivity. Moreover, when flow or pressure conditions were changed rapidly, we found substantial contributions to flow by dynamic and largely reversible changes in the water storage of plant samples. Although the measurements can be performed under sub-atmospheric pressures, it is not possible to subject the samples to negative pressures due to the presence of gas bubbles near the valves and pressure sensors. Regardless, this setup allows for unprecedented insights into the interplay between pressure, flow rate, hydraulic conductivity and water storage in plant segments. This work was performed using an Open Science approach with the original data and analysis to be found at doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7322605.



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