Effects of water storage in the stele on measurements of the hydraulics of young roots of corn and barley


  • Dedicated to the memory of Professor Jack Dainty who died on May 29, 2009.

Author for correspondence:
Ernst Steudle
Tel:+49 921 55 2578


  • • In standard techniques (root pressure probe or high-pressure flowmeter), the hydraulic conductivity of roots is calculated from transients of root pressure using responses following step changes in volume or pressure, which may be affected by a storage of water in the stele.
  • • Storage effects were examined using both experimental data of root pressure relaxations and clamps and a physical capacity model. Young roots of corn and barley were treated as a three-compartment system, comprising a serial arrangement of xylem/probe, stele and outside medium/cortex. The hydraulic conductivities of the endodermis and of xylem vessels were derived from experimental data. The lower limit of the storage capacity of stelar tissue was caused by the compressibility of water. This was subsequently increased to account for realistic storage capacities of the stele.
  • • When root water storage was varied over up to five orders of magnitude, the results of simulations showed that storage effects could not explain the experimental data, suggesting a major contribution of effects other than water storage.
  • • It is concluded that initial water flows may be used to measure root hydraulic conductivity provided that the volumes of water used are much larger than the volumes stored.