• Canopy development;
  • stomata;
  • transpiration;
  • water transport

A striking coordination is observed in sugarcane between prevailing levels of stomatal opening and the hydraulic capacity of the soil, roots and stem to supply the leaves with water. This coordination of vapor phase and liquid phase conductances is associated with decreases in stomatal conductance on a leaf area basis that compensate for increasing leaf area during canopy development, causing transpiration to approach a maximum value on a per plant or ground area basis rather than increase linearly with leaf area. The resulting balance between water loss and water transport capacity maintains leaf water status remarkably constant over a wide range of plant. sizes and growing conditions. These changes in stomatal conductance during development are determined by changes in the composition of the xylem sap rather than by changes in leaf properties. Changes in boundary layer conductance resulting from non-developmental changes in canopy structure such as loding cause additional changes in stomatal conductance mediated by altered humidity at the leaf surface. These maintain a constant level of total canopy vapor phase conductance (stomatal and boundary layer in series) and a constant level of canopy transpiration. These patterns indicate that stomata exert an active role in regulating transpiration even in dense canopies. This control function is consistent with stomatal metering of transpiration, mediated by fluxes of root-derived materials in the xylem sap.