Long distance transport in plants occurs in sieve tubes of the phloem. The pressure flow hypothesis introduced by Ernst Münch in 1930 describes a mechanism of osmotically generated pressure differentials that are supposed to drive the movement of sugars and other solutes in the phloem, but this hypothesis has long faced major challenges. The key issue is whether the conductance of sieve tubes, including sieve plate pores, is sufficient to allow pressure flow. We show that with increasing distance between source and sink, sieve tube conductivity and turgor increases dramatically in Ipomoea nil. Our results provide strong support for the Münch hypothesis, while providing new tools for the investigation of one of the least understood plant tissues.
- Christian S Hardtke, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
© 2016, Knoblauch et al.
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The plant kingdom contains a stunning array of complex morphologies easily observed above-ground, but more challenging to visualize below-ground. Understanding the magnitude of diversity in root distribution within the soil, termed root system architecture (RSA), is fundamental in determining how this trait contributes to species adaptation in local environments. Roots are the interface between the soil environment and the shoot system and therefore play a key role in anchorage, resource uptake, and stress resilience. Previously, we presented the GLO-Roots (Growth and Luminescence Observatory for Roots) system to study the RSA of soil-grown Arabidopsis thaliana plants from germination to maturity (Rellán-Álvarez et al., 2015). In this study, we present the automation of GLO-Roots using robotics and the development of image analysis pipelines in order to examine the temporal dynamic regulation of RSA and the broader natural variation of RSA in Arabidopsis, over time. These datasets describe the developmental dynamics of two independent panels of accessions and reveal highly complex and polygenic RSA traits that show significant correlation with climate variables of the accessions’ respective origins.
By capitalising on positive biodiversity-productivity relationships, intercropping provides opportunities to improve agricultural sustainability. Intercropping is generally implemented using commercial seeds that were bred for maximal productivity in monocultures, thereby ignoring the ability of plants to adapt over generations to the surrounding neighbourhood, notably through increased complementarity, i.e. reduced competition or increased facilitation. This is why using monoculture-adapted seeds for intercropping might limit the benefits of crop diversity on yield. However, the adaptation potential of crops and the corresponding changes in complementarity have not been explored in annual crop systems. Here we show that plant-plant interactions among annual crops shifted towards reduced competition and/or increased facilitation when the plants were growing in the same community type as their parents did in the previous two generations. Total yield did not respond to this common coexistence history, but in fertilized conditions, we observed increased overyielding in mixtures with a common coexistence history. Surprisingly, we observed character convergence between species sharing the same coexistence history for two generations, in monocultures but also in mixtures: the six crop species tested converged towards taller phenotypes with lower leaf dry matter content. This study provides the first empirical evidence for the potential of parental diversity affecting plant-plant interactions, species complementarity and therefore potentially ecosystem functioning of the following generations in annual cropping systems. Although further studies are required to assess the context-dependence of these results, our findings may still have important implications for diversified agriculture as they illustrate the potential of targeted cultivars to increase complementarity of species in intercropping, which could be achieved through specific breeding for mixtures.