Abscisic acid produced in dehydrating roots may enable the plant to measure the water status of the soil


*W. J. Davies.


Abstract. Maize plants were grown in 1-m-long tubes of John Innes No. 2 potting compost. From the start of the experimental period, half of the plants were unwatered. Stomatal conductance of these plants was restricted 6 d after last watering and continued to decline thereafter. This was despite the fact that as a result of solute accumulation, unwatered plants showed consistently higher leaf turgors than well-watered plants. Leaf water potentials of unwatered plants were not significantly lower than those of plants that were watered well. Main seminal and nodal roots showed solute regulation in drying soil and continued to grow even in the driest soil, and plants growing in drying soil showed consistently higher root dry weights than did well-watered plants, water potentials and turgors of the tips of fine roots in the upper part of the column decreased as the soil dried. Soil drying below a water content of around 0–25 g cm−3 (a bulk soil water potential of between -0.2 and -0.3 MPa) resulted in a substantial increase in the ABA content of roots. As soil columns dried progressively from the top, ABA content increased in roots deeper and deeper in the soil. These responses suggest that ABA produced by dehydrating roots and which was subsequently transported to the shoots provided a sensitive indication of the degree of soil drying.