The concentration of xylem sap constituents in root exudate, and in sap from intact, transpiring castor bean plants (Ricinus communis L.)


Correspondence and present address: U. Schurr, Botanisches Institut, Universilcit Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 360, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany


Root exudates were sampled from detopped root systems of castor bean (Ricinus communis). Different volume flux rates were imposed by changing the pneumatic pressure around the root system using a Passioura-type pressure chamber. The concentrations of cations, anions, amino acids, organic acids and abscisic acid decreased hyperbolically when flux rates increased from pure root exudation up to values typical for transpiring plants. Concentrations at low and high fluxes differed by up to 40 times (phosphate) and the ratio of substances changed by factors of up to 10. During the subsequent reduction of flux produced by lowering the pneumatic pressure in the root pressure chamber, the concentrations and ratios of substances deviated (at a given flux rate) from those found when flux was increased. The flux dependence of exudate composition cannot therefore be explained by a simple dilution mechanism. Xylem sap samples from intact, transpiring plants were collected using a Passioura-type root pressure chamber. The concentrations of the xylem sap changed diurnally. Substances could be separated into three groups: (1) calcium, magnesium and amino acid concentrations correlated well with the values expected from their concentration-flux relationships, whereas (2) the concentrations of sulphate and phosphate deviated from the expected relationships during the light phase, and (3) nitrate and potassium concentrations in intact plants varied in completely the opposite manner from those in isolated root systems. Abscisic acid concentrations in the root exudate were dependent on the extent of water use and showed strong diurnal variations in the xylem sap of intact plants even in droughtstressed plants. Calculations using root exudates overestimated export from the root system in intact plants, with the largest deviation found for proton flux (a factor of 10). We conclude that root exudate studies cannot be used as the sole basis for estimating fluxes of substances in the xylem of intact plants. Consequences for studying and modelling xylem transport in whole plants are discussed.