Water acquisition is thought to be limited to the unsuberized surface located close to root tips. However, there are recurring periods when the unsuberized surfaces are limited in woody root systems, and radial water uptake across the bark of woody roots might play an important physiological role in hydraulic functioning. Using X-ray microcomputed tomography (microCT) and hydraulic conductivity measurements (Lpr), we examined water uptake capacity of suberized woody roots in vivo and in excised samples. Bark hydration in grapevine woody roots occurred quickly upon exposure to water (c. 4 h). Lpr measurements through the bark of woody roots showed that it is permeable to water and becomes more so upon wetting. After bark hydration, microCT analysis showed that absorbed water was utilized to remove embolism locally, where c. 20% of root xylem vessels refilled completely within 15 h. Embolism removal did not occur in control roots without water. Water uptake through the bark of woody roots probably plays an important role when unsuberized tissue is scarce/absent, and would be particularly relevant following large irrigation events or in late winter when soils are saturated, re-establishing hydraulic functionality before bud break.
- embolism removal
- hydraulic conductivity
- water uptake
- woody roots
- X-ray computed microtomography (X-ray microCT)