Is xylem sap calcium responsible for reducing stomatal conductance after soil liming?
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Understanding the regulation of calcium uptake, xylem transport and its impacts on growth and leaf gas exchange is a subject that has received insufficient recent attention. Calcium (Ca) is unique within the group of key elements required for plant growth in that it also has a role in cellular signalling via regulation of changes in its cytoplasmic concentration. Its mobility, within the plant, is however somewhat constricted by its chemistry and cellular signalling role, and its adsorptive capacity within the aopoplast and the xylem. Supply and demand for Ca is achieved by a homeostatic balance which if perturbed can cause a number of distinctive physiological conditions, often related to Ca deficiency. In this issue Rothwell and Dodd present experiments with bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and pea (Pisum sativum) plants grown in a field soil exposed to the processes of soil liming (application of Ca carbonate (CaCO3). Given that there is evidence of free Ca in the xylem sap altering stomatal conductance it is reasonable to ask the question does liming elevate Ca in the transpiration stream which may explain the observed reduced growth which they hypothesise is due to Ca-induced stomatal closure. They show that liming doubled soil exchangeable Ca, reduced stomatal conductance and shoot biomass in both species compared with unlimed controls. However, xylem sap Ca concentration increased only in bean. Interestingly, the same was not true for the pea where the root xylem sap concentration remained unchanged despite an increase in soil available Ca. Given that stomatal conductance decreased in both species, but in response to a lime-induced increase in xylem sap Ca in only one; this questions the role of Ca in inducing stomatal closure. They propose that their data suggest that as yet unidentified antitranspirant causes stomatal closure in both species not the increase in xylem sap Ca per se.
KeywordsCalcium ions Minerals Transpiration stream Xylem sap
I thank my colleague Dr Debbie Rees for her comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this manuscript and those of the reviewer’s.
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