Root water extraction under combined water and osmotic stress

Q. de Jong van Lier, J.C. van Dam, K. Metselaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Using a numerical implicit model for root water extraction by a single root in a symmetric radial flow problem, based on the Richards equation and the combined convection-dispersion equation, we investigated some aspects of the response of root water uptake to combined water and osmotic stress. The model implicitly incorporates the effect of simultaneous pressure head and osmotic head on root water uptake, and does not require additional assumptions (additive or multiplicative) to derive the combined effect of water and salt stress. Simulation results showed that relative transpiration equals relative matric flux potential, which is defined as the matric flux potential calculated with an osmotic pressure head-dependent lower bound of integration, divided by the matric flux potential at the onset of limiting hydraulic conditions. In the falling rate phase, the osmotic head near the root surface was shown to increase in time due to decreasing root water extraction rates, causing a more gradual decline of relative transpiration than with water stress alone. Results furthermore show that osmotic stress effects on uptake depend on pressure head or water content, allowing a refinement of the approach in which fixed reduction factors based on the electrical conductivity of the saturated soil solution extract are used. One of the consequences is that osmotic stress is predicted to occur in situations not predicted by the saturation extract analysis approach. It is also shown that this way of combining salinity and water as stressors yields results that are different from a purely multiplicative approach. An analytical steady state solution is presented to calculate the solute content at the root surface, and compared with the outputs of the numerical model. Using the analytical solution, a method has been developed to estimate relative transpiration as a function of system parameters, which are often already used in vadose zone models: potential transpiration rate, root length density, minimum root surface pressure head, and soil -h and K-h functions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-875
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • irrigating forage crops
  • soil-water
  • nutrient-uptake
  • saline waters
  • plant
  • simulation
  • growth
  • transpiration
  • transport
  • flux


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