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Investigation of plant strategies to adapt root water uptake in response to heterogeneous soil water distribution and dynamically changing shoot demand

Yannik Müllers

Root water uptake (RWU) is affected by several parameters, such as soil water potential, root system traits or light intensity that naturally vary in space and time. Quantifying how these heterogeneities influence RWU is essential to understand plant water balance under different conditions, e.g. in drought scenarios. Despite its significance, central aspects about plant water uptake are still unclear, mainly due to experimental limitation of RWU detection. We use an in-house developed Soil Water Profiler (SWaP) with high temporal and spatial resolution to dynamically and non-invasively measure vertical RWU profiles. Combining SWaP measurements, MRI of root systems and hydraulic measurements at leaf level I want to answer the following questions during my PhD project:
1. To which extend is the profile of RWU rates defined by root length distribution?
2. How is RWU in different soil layers related to transpiration and on which timescales do shoot and root hydraulics interact?
3. How are RWU rates adjusted in partially drying soils?
Different plant species varying in root system architecture and water handling strategy are analyzed in context of these questions.