We studied the effects of variations of water flux through the plant, of diurnal variation of water flux, and of variation of vapour pressure deficit at the leaf on compensation pressure in the Passioura-type pressure chamber, the composition of the xylem sap and leaf conductance in Ricinus communis. The diurnal pattern of compensation pressure showed stress relaxation during the night hours, while stress increased during the day, when water limitation increased. Thus compensation pressure was a good measure of the momentary water status of the root throughout the day and during drought. The bulk soil water content at which predawn compensation pressure and abscisic acid concentration in the xylem sap increased and leaf conductance decreased, was high when the water usage of the plant was high. For all xylem sap constituents analysed, variations in concentrations during the day were larger than changes in mean concentrations with drought. Mean concentrations of phosphate and the pH of the xylem sap declined with drought, while nitrate concentration remained constant. When the measurement leaf was exposed to a different VPD from the rest of the plant, leaf conductance declined by 400mmol m−2 s−1 when compensation pressure increased by 1 MPa in all treatments. The compensation pressure needed to keep the shoot turgid, leaf conductance and the abscisic acid concentration in the xylem were linearly related. This was also the case when the highly dynamic development of stress was taken into account.
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