Skip to main content

Neutron Imaging Reveals Internal Plant Hydraulic Dynamics...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Plant and Soil
Publication Date
Page Numbers
683 to 693

Many terrestrial ecosystem processes are constrained by water availability and transport within the soil. Knowledge of plant water fluxes is thus critical for assessing mechanistic processes linked to biogeochemical cycles, yet resolution of root structure and xylem water transport dynamics has been a particularly daunting task for the ecologist. Through neutron imaging, we demonstrate the ability to non-invasively monitor individual root functionality and water fluxes within Zea mays L. (maize) and Panicum virgatum L. (switchgrass) seedlings growing in a sandy medium. Root structure and growth were readily imaged by neutron radiography and neutron computed tomography. Seedlings were irrigated with water or deuterium oxide and imaged through time as a growth lamp was cycled on to alter leaf demand for water. Sub-millimeter scale resolution reveals timing and magnitudes of root water uptake, redistribution within the roots, and root-shoot hydraulic linkages, relationships not well characterized by other techniques.