Critical soil conditions for oxygen stress to plant roots: substituting the Fedds-function by a process-based model

R.P. Bartholomeus, J.P.M. Witte, P.M. van Bodegom, J.C. van Dam, R. Aerts

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Abstract

Effects of insufficient soil aeration on the functioning of plants form an important field of research. A well-known and frequently used utility to express oxygen stress experienced by plants is the Feddes-function. This function reduces root water uptake linearly between two constant pressure heads, representing threshold values for minimum and maximum oxygen deficiency. However, the correctness of this expression has never been evaluated and constant critical values for oxygen stress are likely to be inappropriate. In this paper, we propose a fundamentally different approach to assess oxygen stress: we built a plant physiological and soil physical process-based model to calculate the minimum gas filled porosity of the soil at which oxygen stress occurs.
Effects of insufficient soil aeration on the functioning of plants form an important field of research. A well-known and frequently used utility to express oxygen stress experienced by plants is the Feddes-function. This function reduces root water uptake linearly between two constant pressure heads, representing threshold values for minimum and maximum oxygen deficiency. However, the correctness of this expression has never been evaluated and constant critical values for oxygen stress are likely to be inappropriate. On theoretical grounds it is expected that oxygen stress depends on various abiotic and biotic factors. In this paper, we propose a fundamentally different approach to assess oxygen stress: we built a plant physiological and soil physical process-based model to calculate the minimum gas filled porosity of the soil (phi gas_min) at which oxygen stress occurs. First, we calculated the minimum oxygen concentration in the gas phase of the soil needed to sustain the roots through (micro-scale) diffusion with just enough oxygen to respire. Subsequently, phi gas_min that corresponds to this minimum oxygen concentration was calculated from diffusion from the atmosphere through the soil (macro-scale). We analyzed the validity of constant critical values to represent oxygen stress in terms Of phi gas_min, based on model simulations in which we distinguished different soil types and in which we varied temperature, organic matter content, soil depth and plant characteristics. Furthermore, in order to compare our model results with the Feddes-function, we linked root oxygen stress to root water uptake (through the sink term variable F, which is the ratio of actual and potential uptake). The simulations showed that phi gas-min is especially sensitive to soil temperature, plant characteristics (root dry weight and maintenance respiration coefficient) and soil depth but hardly to soil organic matter content. Moreover, phi gas-min varied considerably between soil types and was larger in sandy soils than in clayey soils. We demonstrated that F of the Feddes-function indeed decreases approximately linearly, but that actual oxygen stress already starts at drier conditions than according to the Feddes-function. How much drier is depended on the factors indicated above. Thus, the Feddes-function might cause large errors in the prediction of transpiration reduction and growth reduction through oxygen stress. We made our method easily accessible to others by implementing it in SWAP, a user-friendly soil water model that is coupled to plant growth. Since constant values for phi gas_min in plant and hydrological modeling appeared to be inappropriate, an integrated approach, including both physiological and physical processes, should be used instead. Therefore, we advocate using our method in all situations where oxygen stress could occur. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-165
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume360
Issue number1-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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Keywords

  • soil pore system
  • soil air
  • water uptake
  • plant water relations
  • transpiration
  • waterlogging
  • models
  • oxidative stress
  • soil plant relationships
  • use systems-analysis
  • crop growth-models
  • physical-properties
  • water-uptake
  • diffusion
  • respiration
  • aeration
  • compaction
  • transport
  • conductivity

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