, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 181-187

A split-root apparatus for examining the effects of hydraulic lift by trees on the water status of neighbouring crops

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We describe a split-root system for examining the effects of hydraulic lift by trees on crop growth. In this system, upper lateral tree roots were grown in a container set on the ground through which the taproot of the tree could penetrate into the moist soil below. The container, with a radius of 0.5 m and a height of 0.20 m, consisted of two compartments divided by a waterproof barrier. A markhamia tree (Markhamia lutea (Benth.) Schumann) and upland rice (Oryza sativa (L.)) plants were planted in one compartment, with only rice plants planted in the other compartment. Irrigation of the container was ceased at the start of the experiment. The stomatal conductance of the rice plants in the associated side, in which both trees and rice plants were grown, declined more rapidly during the first drying period than in the rice-only compartment, suggesting that there was competition for water between the tree and the crop plants. However, during the later drying period, the rice plants in the associated side were green and viable, while those in the rice-only side became desiccated. Rice roots were seen intermingling with tree roots, and the soil water content in the associated site tended to be higher than in the rice-only side. It is likely that hydraulic lift occurred in the associated side and that water that had been transferred to the surface roots was released into the soil, enabling the rice plants in this compartment to remain viable. This novel system is useful for examination of the effects of hydraulic lift by trees on the growth of neighbouring crops.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.