Monitoring plant water status via static uniaxial compression of the leaf lamina

Tomás I. Fuenzalida*, Oliver Binks, Callum J. Bryant, Joe Wolfe, Marilyn C. Ball

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Turgor pressure is an essential, but difficult to measure indicator of plant water status. Turgor has been quantified by localized compression of cells or tissues, but a simple method to perform these measurements is lacking. We hypothesized that changes in leaf turgidity can be monitored by uniaxially compressing the leaf lamina and measuring the mechanical stress under a constrained thickness (stress relaxation) and that changes in leaf water content can be monitored by measuring the leaf thickness under constant mechanical stress. Using a simple, custom-built leaf squeeze-flow rheometer, we performed different compression tests on leaves from 13 plant species. The mechanical stress measured during stress relaxation was correlated with leaf bulk turgor pressure (R2 > 0.95) and thus with balancing pressure (R2 > 0.94); the leaf thickness measured under constant mechanical stress was correlated with relative water content (R2 > 0.74). The coefficients of these relationships were related to the leaf bulk osmotic pressure at the turgor-loss point. An idealized average-cell model suggests that, under isothermal conditions, the stationary bulk modulus during compression is largely determined by the bulk osmotic pressure. Our study presents an inexpensive, accessible and automatable method to monitor plant water status noninvasively.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2589-2606
    Number of pages18
    JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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