Evaluation of sap flow methods to determine water use by cultivated palms

W.S. Madurapperuma, Timothy Bleby, Stephen Burgess

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    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Sustainable management of water resources allocated to palm crops requires reliable tools for measuring palm water use. Thermometric sap flow methods developed for woody dicot plants hold great potential for use in palms, but there have been few investigations to determine whether such methods can be used successfully in ‘woody’ monocots. Here, we evaluate two sap flow methods for measuring whole-plant water use by potted cocos palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana): the Heat Ratio Method (HRM) and the Compensation Heat Pulse Method (CHPM). Measurements of whole-plant water use from the HRM and the CHPM were compared to gravimetric measurements acquired from an electronic balance. Of the two methods, the HRM gave the most accurate results and it most precisely described patterns of transpiration with respect to environmental conditions and leaf morphology. Estimates of total daily water use from the HRM and the balance were highly correlated (R2 = 0.92; P <0.0001) and very near to a 1:1 relationship—an excellent result given the potential for error associated with each method. As expected, the CHPM was seriously limited at low flow rates, but it agreed well with the HRM at higher flow rates (heat pulse velocity >4 cm h−1). Anatomical investigations revealed that vascular bundles in measured palm fronds were evenly distributed and the distance between bundles was comparable in scale to the diameter of probes of HRM sensors, and most likely an order of magnitude smaller than the probable zone of thermal influence for HRM measurements. This contention was supported by results of mathematical modeling suggesting that HRM heat pulse velocities in palm-like sapwood remain largely unaffected by increases in heterogeneity caused by larger xylem vessels and wider interstitial tissues. Although wounding models for heat pulse sap flow methods have not historically catered for the effects of discrete vascular bundles, they are sufficiently approximate given our empirical validations, and we conclude that palm sapwood is thermally homogenous enough for the HRM and the CHPM to be used without modification. Overall, we present strong evidence that heat pulse methods such as the HRM and the CHPM can be used successfully in woody monocots. Finally, we note that the CHPM is likely to perform better in cases of very high flow rates, while the HRM provides more comprehensive monitoring of the usual range of flow rates including at night, early morning and during water deficit.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)372-380
    JournalEnvironmental and Experimental Botany
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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