The role of hydraulic lift in nutrient uptake from dry topsoil is unclear. Vertically-split root systems were used to measure hydraulic lift and phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) uptake at the rosette and flowering stages of two canola (Brassica napus L.) cultivars (Trigold and Boomer with small and large root systems, respectively) grown in soil low in P and K. Rubidium (Rb) was used as a tracer to examine K uptake from K fertiliser banded in dry topsoil. During vegetative growth, statistically significant hydraulic lift was measured, irrespective of cultivar root size or a specific nutrient (P or K) placed in the topsoil. The Rb tracer revealed significant amounts of K were absorbed from the dry soil, but at rates five-fold lower than from the moist soil. The water lifted could not prevent cessation of P uptake by Boomer and a reduction in P uptake by Trigold. During mid to late flowering, ion uptake from the dry topsoil was impeded despite the continuation of hydraulic lift up to 28 days after the topsoil was dried. Minimal fine root growth following topsoil drying (and reduction in fine root biomass in some treatments) appeared to be the primary cause of impeded nutrient uptake.