Plant and Soil

, Volume 283, Issue 1–2, pp 99–117 | Cite as

Water Uptake by Plant Roots: II – Modelling of Water Transfer in the Soil Root-system with Explicit Account of Flow within the Root System – Comparison with Experiments

  • Claude DoussanEmail author
  • Alain Pierret
  • Emmanuelle Garrigues
  • Loïc Pagès
Rhizosphere - Perspectives and Challenges - A Tribute to Lorenz Hiltner


Soil water uptake by plant roots results from the complex interplay between plant and soil which modulates and determines transport processes at a range of spatial and temporal scales: at small scales, uptake rates are determined by local soil and root hydraulic properties but, at the plant scale, local processes interact within the root system and are integrated through the hydraulic architecture of the root system and plant transpiration. However, because of the inherent complexity of the root system (both structural and functional), plant roots are commonly account for with synthetic but over-simplifying descriptors, valid at a given spatial scale. In this article, we present a model describing both soil and plant processes involved in water uptake at the scale of the whole root system with explicit account of individual roots. This is achieved through the unifying concepts of root system architecture and hydraulic continuity between the soil and plant. The model is based on a combination of architectural, root system hydraulic and soil water transfer modelling. The model can reproduce qualitatively and quantitatively laboratory experimental data obtained from imaging of water uptake by light transmission (cf. Garrigues et al., Water uptake by plant roots: I-Formation and propagation of a water extraction front in mature root systems as evidenced by 2D light transmission imaging. Plant and soil (2006, this issue) or X-ray imaging for two soil types (a sand/clay mix and a sandy clay loam) and different narrow-leaf lupin root systems (taprooted and fibrous), using independently measured soil–plant parameters. Results of the experiments and modelling reported in this paper concur to show that a water extraction front formed on the root system. This uptake front’s spatial extension and propagation were closely related to the local dependence between root and soil hydraulic properties and root axial conductance. Hence, a sharp front formed in the sand/clay mix but was much more attenuated in the sandy loam. Comparison between taprooted and fibrous root systems grown in a sand/clay mix, show that the taprooted architecture induced a more spatially concentrated uptake zone (near the soil surface) with higher flux rates, but with xylem water potential at the base of the root system twice as low than in the fibrous architecture. Modelling provided evidence that hydraulic lift might have occurred when transpiration declined, particularly in soil prone to abrupt variations in soil water potential (sand/clay mix). Finally, such a model, explicitly coupling root system-soil water transfers, can be useful to study water uptake in relation with root architectural traits, distribution of root hydraulic conductance or influence of heterogeneous conditions (localised irrigation, root clumping).


architecture hydraulic conductance model root system water uptake 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claude Doussan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alain Pierret
    • 1
  • Emmanuelle Garrigues
    • 2
  • Loïc Pagès
    • 3
  1. 1.INRAUnité Climat, Sol, EnvironnementSite AgroparcFrance
  2. 2.INRA/INA-PGUnité Environnement et Grandes CulturesThiverval-GrignonFrance
  3. 3.INRAUnité PSHSite AgroparcFrance

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