Factors Affecting Water Absorption in Plants by Roots and Soil

factors affecting water absorption in plants: Both plant factors (internal factors) and environmental factors (external factors) affect the absorption of water by the plants through their roots. These include soil factors (external factors) such as soil temperature, solute potential (osmotic potential) of soil solution, soil aeration (02 concentration and CO2 accumulation), and soil water, whereas the presence of an efficient absorbing root system, transpiration, and metabolic activities of root cells are the plant factors (internal factors) contributing to the absorption of water by roots from the soil.

Factors Affecting Water Absorption in Plants by Soil

Although atmospheric conditions may also affect the absorption of water conditions in soil usually act as limiting factors in the absorption of water: These include:

1. Soil Temperature

Soil temperature affects the rate of absorption of water. The plants growing in soils with low temperatures absorb less water. At lower temperatures the root growth is inhibited due to the slower rate of metabolic activity of the root cells, the protoplasm becomes less permeable to water and also the water becomes more viscous and its mobility is reduced. Very high temperatures are lethal to the cells.

The optimum temperature at which maximum absorption can take place ranges from 20 to 30 C.

2. Soil Aeration

Soil aeration is one of the most important factors in water absorption. It is commonly observed that the rate of water absorption is higher in well-aerated soils whereas, in poorly aerated soils, such as flooded soils, the leaves of the plants fall down (wilting).

Because air spaces among soil particles are occupied by water and the roots fail to respire and die. The deficiency of oxygen results in retardation of root growth and metabolic activity of its cells. Reduced metabolic activity seriously affects the accumulation of salts which lowers the water potential of the cell sap and causes a water potential gradient.

Accumulation of CO2 causes an increase ¡n the viscosity of protoplasm making it less permeable to water; therefore the rate of water absorption is retarded.

3. Solute Potential of Soil Solution as factors affecting water absorption in plants

The solute potential or osmotic potential of soil solution is the driving force that creates the water potential gradient responsible for Affecting Water Absorption in Plants by Soil by the roots.

Therefore, if the water potential of the soil solution is more negative (lower) than that of the cell sap of the root cells, water will move out of the plant cells instead of being absorbed. This is why most plants fail to grow in soils having high salt content. However, halophytes (plants growing in saltish areas) have a tolerance for high salt concentrations in the soil solution.

4. Availability of Water

The water is not readily available to the plants at levels above field capacity and the level below permanent wilting percentage’. Therefore, the rate of absorption of water is maximum between these two quantities.

If water contents increase beyond field capacity the soil aeration is affected resulting in a decrease in the rate of absorption and decreases in water level below the permanent wilting percentage mark the depletion of available water, thus bringing an end to the process of absorption.

Plant: Affecting Water Absorption in Plants

In addition to environmental factors, certain plant factors (internal factors) also affect the absorption of water and minerals dissolved in t by the roots. These include:

i. Root System

The presence of a large root system with an adequate number of root hair helps the plants in absorbing water and minerals dissolved into the soil efficiently. In grasses highly branched fibrous root system and in dicots, a deep taproot system helps in the absorption of water and increases its rate of absorption.

Root hairs play an important role in the factors affecting water absorption in plants. These are thin-walled therefore, the water moves into them more efficiently from the soil solution. Also, the root hairs increase the surface area for absorption. The roots of most gymnosperms get infected with fungi present in the soil and form mycorrhizae. The fungi help in the absorption of water from the soil.

ii. Transpiration

The rate of absorption of water is almost equal to the rate of transpiration. At a higher rate of transpiration, the rate of absorption also increases. Transpiration from aerial parts of the plant result in transpiration pulls that causes tension in the water column held in the apoplast and symplast. This pull is transmitted down to the soil solution and results in a water potential gradient. This gradient helps in the absorption of water.

iii. Metabolic Activities of Root Cells

Although doubt exists regarding the use of energy in the absorption of water yet the metabolism and absorption of water are closely related. The factors that inhibit or retard metabolism also affect the rate of absorption. These factors include poor aeration and the use of respiratory inhibitors such as potassium cyanide. The energy produced during the metabolic activity of the cell is used for elongation of the root system which provides new contact areas with water present in the soil. Thus metabolism participates indirectly in absorption.

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