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Crop Physiology
2015, Pages: 251–281

Improving water transport for carbon gain in crops

Timothy J. Brodribb, Meisha-Marika Holloway-Phillips, Helen Bramley

University of Tasmania, Australia.


The water transport system in plants provides a great and largely unexplored potential for improving the performance of crop plants. Water supply is well known as a critical limitation to crop productivity, but less well known is the fact that a substantial limitation to water supply occurs within the plant, due to a finite capacity of roots, stems and leaves to transport water. Understanding the limitations to maximum water transport in crop plants and what regulates the dynamic permeability of plant tissues provides an opportunity to enhance carbon accumulation and growth by ensuring sufficient water supply. In this chapter we examine the principles of plant water transport, with particular focus on how the anatomy of the xylem water-delivery system in the roots and leaves affects the efficiency with which water is supplied for transpiration under ample and water-deficit soil conditions, and present a vascular-centric view of the potential for improving crop yield.

Keywords: hydraulic conductivity; xylem vulnerability; vein density; stomata; stomatal regulation; aquaporins.

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