Matric potential measurements by polymer tensiometers in cropped lysimeters under water-stressed conditions

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In many regions of the world, plant growth and productivity are limited by water deficits. As a result of more frequent and intense droughts, the area of land characterized as very dry has more than doubled since the 1970s. Consequently, understanding root water uptake under water-stressed conditions is gaining importance. The performance of a recently developed polymer tensiometer (POT) designed to measure matric potentials down to ¿1.6 MPa was evaluated and compared with volumetric moisture content measurements in dry soil. Three irrigation intensities created severe, intermediate, and no water stress conditions in lysimeters with growing maize (Zea mays L.) plants. By monitoring matric potentials using POTs, levels of local water stress in our experiments were better defined. When the defined stress levels were reached, volumetric moisture measurements for this particular loam soil were below 0.1, thus less informative compared with matric potential measurements. The observed matric potential profiles indicate significant root water uptake between 0.3- and 0.5-m depth in the later growth stages under water-stressed conditions. The temporal pattern of matric potential profiles reflected changing root water uptake behavior under dry conditions. As the total soil water potential is a direct indication of the amount of energy required by plants to take up water, POTs may contribute to quantifying root water uptake in dry soils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1048-1054
JournalVadose Zone Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • time-domain reflectometry
  • root water
  • soil
  • extraction
  • responses
  • drought
  • systems
  • maize


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