Background and AimsCold neutron radiography was applied to directly observe embolism in conduits of liana stems with the aim to evaluate the suitability of this method for studying embolism formation and repair. Potential advantages of this method are a principally non-invasive imaging approach with low energy dose compared with synchrotron X-ray radiation, a good spatial and temporal resolution, and the possibility to observe the entire volume of stem portions with a length of several centimetres at one time.MethodsComplete and cut stems of Adenia lobata, Aristolochia macrophylla and Parthenocissus tricuspidata were radiographed at the neutron imaging facility CONRAD at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie, with each measurement cycle lasting several hours. Low attenuation gas spaces were separated from the high attenuation (water-containing) plant tissue using image processing.Key resultsSevere cuts into the stem were necessary to induce embolism. The formation and temporal course of an embolism event could then be successfully observed in individual conduits. It was found that complete emptying of a vessel with a diameter of 100 μm required a time interval of 4 min. Furthermore, dehydration of the whole stem section could be monitored via decreasing attenuation of the neutrons.ConclusionsThe results suggest that cold neutron radiography represents a useful tool for studying water relations in plant stems that has the potential to complement other non-invasive methods. © 2013 The Author.
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