Linear relation between leaf xylem water potential and transpiration in pearl millet during soil drying

Gaochao Cai, Mutez Ali Ahmed, Michaela A. Dippold, Mohsen Zarebanadkouki, Andrea Carminati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Aims: As soil dries, the loss of soil hydraulic conductivity limits water supply to the leaves, which is expected to generate a nonlinear relationship between leaf water potential (ψleaf) and transpiration (E). The effect of soil drying and root properties on ψleaf and E remains elusive. Methods: We measured E and ψleaf of pearl millet for varying E and soil moisture using a root pressure chamber. A model of water flow in soil and plant was used to fit the ψleaf (E) relationship. Results: The relation between ψleaf and E was linear at all soil moistures. The slope of ψleaf (E) increased with decreasing soil moisture due to the decreasing soil-root conductance. The fact that the relation remained linear also in dry soils and high E is surprising. Indeed, it indicates that the gradients in soil water potential (ψsoil) were small, probably because of the large root surface (13.5 cm cm−3) active in water uptake. ψleaf at E = 0 was less negative than ψsoil, indicating a more negative osmotic potential in the xylem than in the soil. Conclusions: We propose that the linearity between ψleaf and E and the high ψleaf (E = 0) compared to ψsoil support transpiration in drying soils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-578
Number of pages14
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Balancing pressure
  • Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br
  • Plant hydraulic conductance
  • Root pressure chamber
  • Stomatal conductance
  • Vapor pressure deficit


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