Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Measurement of plant water status by the pressure chamber technique

  • 1884 Accesses

  • 539 Citations


The pressure chamber has been widely used in the measurement of total water potential and pressure-volume relations of leaves, twigs and, to a lesser extent, roots. Some of the benefits and precautions in its use in these studies are reviewed and discussed. The pressure chamber has also been used to determine hydraulic resistances of plants, to collect xylem sap, to determine the water potential at various points in the xylem and to establish membrane damage of plants. Developments in this field are reviewed and discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Acock B (1975) An equilibrium model of leaf water potential which separates intra- and extracellular potentials. Aust J Plant Physiol 2:253

  2. Bahari ZA, Pallardy SG, Parker WC (1985) Photosynthesis, water relations, and drought adaptation in six woody species of oak-hickory forests in Central Missouri. Forest Sci 31:557

  3. Begg JE, Turner NC (1970) Water potential gradients in field tobacco. Plant Physiol 46:343

  4. Blum A, Sullivan CY, Eastin JD (1973) On the pressure chamber technique for estimating leaf water potential in sorghum. Agron J 65:337

  5. Boyer JS (1967a) Leaf water potentials measured with a pressure chamber. Plant Physiol 42:133

  6. Boyer JS (1967b) Matric potentials of leaves. Plant Physiol 42:213

  7. Boyer JS (1969) Measurement of the water status of plants. Annu Rev Plant Physiol 20:351

  8. Brown PW, Tanner CB (1983) Alfalfa osmotic potential: a comparison of the water-release curve and frozen-tissue methods. Agron J 75:91

  9. Campbell GS (1985) Instruments for measuring plant water potential and its components. In: Marshall B, Woodward FI (eds) Instrumentation for environmental physiology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 193

  10. Campbell GS, Papendick RI, Rabie E, Shayo-Ngowi AJ (1979) A comparison of osmotic potential, elastic modulus, and apoplastic water in leaves of dryland winter wheat. Agron J 71:31

  11. Cheung YNS, Tyree MT, Dainty J (1975) Water relations parameters on single leaves obtained in a pressure bomb and some ecological interpretations. Can J Bot 53:1342

  12. Davis SD, Mooney HA (1986) Tissue water relations of four co-occurring chaparral shrubs. Oecologia 70:527

  13. De Roo HC (1969) Water stress gradients in plants and soil-root systems. Agron J 61:511

  14. Dixon HH (1914) Transpiration and the ascent of sap in plants. Macmillan, London

  15. Gee GW, Janes BE, Tan CS (1973) A chamber for applying pressure to roots of intact plants. Plant Physiol 52:472

  16. Gee GW, Liu W, Olvang H, Janes BE (1974) Use of pressure bomb measurements to estimate root water potentials. Agron J 66:75

  17. Gollan T, Passioura JB, Munns R (1986) Soil water status affects the stomatal conductance of fully turgid wheat and sunflower leaves. Aust J Plant Physiol 13:459

  18. Hellkvist J, Richards GP, Jarvis PG (1974) Vertical gradients of water potential and tissue water relations in Sitka spruce trees measured with the pressure chamber. J Appl Ecol 11:637

  19. Henson IE (1982) Osmotic adjustment to water stress in pearl millet (Pennisetum americanum L. Leeke) in a controlled environment. J Exp Bot 33:78

  20. Hinckley TM, Duhme F, Hinckley AR, Richter H (1980) Water relations of drought hardy shrubs: osmotic potential and stomatal reactivity. Plant Cell Environ 3:131

  21. Höfler K (1920) Ein Schema für die osmotische Leistung der Pflanzenzelle. Ber Dtsch Bot Ges 38:288

  22. Jachetta JJ, Appleby AP, Boersma L (1986) Use of the pressure vessel to measure concentrations of solutes in apoplastic and membrane-filtered symplastic sap in sunflower leaves. Plant Physiol 82:995

  23. Janes BE, Gee GW (1973) Changes in transpiration, net carbon dioxide assimilation and leaf water potential resulting from application of hydrostatic pressure to roots of intact pepper plans. Physiol Plant 28:201

  24. Jones MM, Turner NC (1980) Osmotic adjustment in expanding and fully expanded leaves of sunflower in response to water deficits. Aust J Plant Physiol 7:181

  25. Jones MM, Turner NC, Osmond CB (1981) Mechanisms of drought resistance. In: Paleg LG, Aspinall D (eds) Physiology and biochemistry of drought resistance in plants. Academic Press, Sydney, p 15

  26. Kikuta SB, Kyriakopoulous E, Richter H (1985) Leaf hygrometer v. pressure chamber: a comparison of pressure-volume curve data obtained on single leaves by alternating measurements. Plant Cell Environ 8:363

  27. Klepper B, Barrs HD (1968) Effects of salt secretion on psychrometric determinations of water potential of cotton leaves. Plant Physiol 33:1138

  28. Kobata T, Takami S (1984) Estimation of the leaf water potential in rice by the pressure chamber technique. Jpn J Crop Sci 53:290

  29. Kyriakopoulos E, Richter H (1981) Pressure-volume curves and drought injury. Physiol Plant 52:124

  30. Ladiges PY (1975) Some aspects of tissue water relations in three populations of Eucalyptus viminalis Labill. New Phytol 75:53

  31. Leach JE, Woodhead T, Day W (1982) Bias in pressure chamber measurements of leaf water potential. Agric Meteorol 27:257

  32. McCown RL, Wall BH (1979) Improvement of pressure chamber measurements of two legumes by constriction of stems. Plant Soil 52:447

  33. Melkonian JJ, Whofe J, Steponkus PL (1982) Determination of the volumetric modulus of elasticity of wheat leaves by pressure-volume relations and the effect of drought conditioning. Crop Sci 22:116

  34. Meyer WS, Ritchie JT (1980) Resistance to water flow in the sorghum plant. Plant Physiol 65: 33

  35. Milburn JA (1979) Water flow in plants. Longman, London, p 149

  36. Millar BD (1982) Accuracy and usefulness of psychrometer and pressure chamber for evaluating water potentials of Pinus radiata needles. Aust J Plant Physiol 9:499

  37. Millar BD, Hansen GK (1975) Exclusion errors in pressure chamber estimates of leaf water potential. Ann Bot 39:915

  38. Munns R (1985) Na+, K+ and Cl in xylem sap flowing to shoots of NaCl-treated barley. J Exp Bot 36:1032

  39. Munns R, Termaat A (1986) Whole-plant responses to salinity. Aust J Plant Physiol 13:143

  40. O'Toole JC, Moya TB (1981) Comparison of pressure chamber and psychrometer estimates of leaf water potential in rice. Plant Soil 62:313

  41. Passioura JB (1980a) The meaning of matric potential. J Exp Bot 31:1161

  42. Passioura JB (1980b) The transport of water from soil to shoot in wheat seedlings. J Exp Bot 31:333

  43. Passioura JB (1982) Water in the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. In: Lange OL, Nobel PS, Osmond CB, Ziegler H (eds) Physiological plant ecology, II. Water relations and carbon assimilation. Encycl Plant Physiol 12B, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, p 5

  44. Passioura JB, Munns R (1984) Hydraulic resistance of plants. II. Effects of rooting medium, and time of day, in barley and lupin. Aust J Plant Physiol 11:341

  45. Passioura JB, Tanner CB (1985) Oscillations in apparent hydraulic conductance of cotton plants. Aust J Plant Physiol 12:455

  46. Richter H (1978) A diagram for the description of water relations in plant cells and organs. J Exp Bot 29:1197

  47. Richter H, Duhme F, Glatzel G, Hinckley TM, Karlic H (1980) Some limitations and applications of the pressure-volume curve technique in ecological research. In: Grace J, Ford ED, Jarvis PG (eds) Plants and their atmospheric environment. Symp Br Ecol Soc No. 21, Blackwell, Oxford, p 263

  48. Ritchie GA, Hinckley TM (1975) The pressure chamber as an instrument for ecological research. Adv Ecol Res 9:165

  49. Robichaux RH (1984) Variation in the tissue water relations of two sympatric Hawaiian Dubautia species and their natural hybrid. Oecologia 65:75

  50. Robichaux RH, Holsinger KE, Morse SE (1986) Turgor maintenance in Hawaiian Dubautia species: the role of variation in tissue osmotic and elastic properties. In: Givnish TJ (ed) On the economy of plant form and function. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 353

  51. Scholander PF, Hammel HT, Hemingsen EA, Bradstreet ED (1964) Hydrostatic pressure and osmotic potential of leaves of mangrove and some other plants. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 52:119

  52. Scholander PIT, Hammel HT, Bradstreet ED, Hemmingsen EA (1965) Sap pressure in vascular plants. Science 148:339

  53. Schulze ED, Turner NC, Glatzel G (1984) Carbon, water and nutrient relations of two mistletoes and their hosts: a hypothesis. Plant Cell Environ 7:293

  54. Sobrado MA, Turner NC (1983a) Influence of water deficits on the water relations characteristics and productivity of wild and cultivated sunflowers. Aust J Plant Physiol 10:195

  55. Sobrado MA, Turner NC (1983b) Comparison of the water relations characteristics of Helianthus annuus and Helianthus petiolaris when subjected to water deficits. Oecologia 58:309

  56. Stark N, Spitzner C, Essig D (1985) Xylem sap analysis for determining nutritional status of trees: Pseudotsuga menziesii. Can J For Res 15:429

  57. Takami S, Turner NC, Rawson HM (1981) Leaf expansion of four sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) cultivars in relation to water deficits. I. Patterns during plant development. Plant Cell Environ 4:399

  58. Thomas H (1986) Effect of rate of dehydration on leaf water status and osmotic adjustment in Dactylis glomerata L., Lolium perenne L. and L. multiflorum Lam. Ann Bot 57:225

  59. Turner NC (1976) Use of the pressure chamber in membrane damage studies. J Exp Bot 27:1085

  60. Turner NC (1981 a) Techniques and experimental approaches for the measurement of plant water status. Plant Soil 58:339

  61. Turner NC (1981 b) Correction of flow resistances of plants measured from covered and exposed leaves. Plant Physiol 68:1090

  62. Turner NC (1986) Crop water deficits: a decade of progress. Adv Agron 39:1

  63. Turner NC, Long MJ (1980) Errors arising from rapid water loss in the measurement of leaf water potential by the pressure chamber technique. Aust J Plant Physiol 7:527

  64. Turner NC, Singh DP (1984) Responses of adaxial and abaxial stomata to light and water deficits in sunflower and sorghum. New Phytol 96:187

  65. Turner NC, Begg JE, Tonnet ML (1978) Osmotic adjustment of sorghum and sunflower crops in response to water deficits and its influence on the water potential at which stomata close. Aust J Plant Physiol 5:597

  66. Turner NC, De Roo HC, Wright WH (1971) A pressure chamber for the measurement of plant water potential. Conn Agric Exp Stn, New Haven, Spec Soils Bull 23

  67. Turner NC, Spurway RA, Schulze ED (1984) Comparison of water potentials measured by in situ psychrometry and pressure chamber in morphologically different species. Plant Physiol 74:316

  68. Turner NC, O'Toole JC, Cruz RT, Yambao EB, Ahmad S, Namuco OS, Dingkuhn M (1986) Responses of seven rice cultivars to water deficits. II. Osmotic adjustment, leaf elasticity, leaf extension, leaf death, stomatal conductance and photosynthesis. Field Crops Res 13:273

  69. Turner NC, Stern WR, Evans P (1987) Water relations and osmotic adjustment of leaves and roots of lupins in response to water deficits. Crop Sci 27:977

  70. Tyree MT (1976) Negative turgor pressure in plant cells: fact or fallacy? Can J Bot 54:2738

  71. Tyree MT, Cheung YNS (1977) Resistance to water flow in Fagus grandifolia leaves. Can J Bot 55:2591

  72. Tyree MT, Dainty J (1973) The water relations of hemlock (Tsuga canadiensis). II. The kinetics of water exchange between symplast and apoplast. Can J Bot 51:1481

  73. Tyree MT, Jarvis PG (1982) Water in tissues and cells. In: Lange OL, Nobel PS, Osmond CB, Ziegler H (eds) Physiological plant ecology. II. Water relations and carbon assimilation. Encycl Plant Physiol 12B, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, p 35

  74. Tyree MT, Hammel HT (1972) The mesurement of the turgor pressure and the water relations of plants by the pressure-bomb technique. J Exp Bot 23:267

  75. Tyree MT, Richter H (1981) Alternative methods of analysing water potential isotherms: some cautions and clarifications. I. The impact of non-ideality and of some experimental errors. J Exp Bot 32:643

  76. Tyree MT, Richter H (1982) Alternate methods of analysing water potential isotherms: some cautions and clarifications. II. Curvilinearity in water potential isotherms. Can J Bot 60:911

  77. Tyree MT, Caldwell C, Dainty J (1975) The water relations of hemlock (Tsuga canadiensis). V. The localization of resistances to bulk water flow. Can J Bot 53:1078

  78. Tyree MT, Dainty J, Benis M (1973) The water relations of hemlock (Tsuga canadiensis). I. Some equilibrium water relations as measured by the pressure-bomb technique. Can J Bot 51:1471

  79. Tyree MT, MacGregor ME, Petrov A, Upenieks MI (1978) A comparison of systematic errors between the Richards and Hammel methods of measuring tissue — water relations parameters. Can J Bot 56:2153

  80. Van Alfen NK, Turner NC (1975 a) Influence of a Ceratocystis ulmi toxin on water relations of elm (Ulmus americana). Plant Physiol 55:312

  81. Van Alfen NK, Turner NC (1975b) Changes in alfalfa stem conductance induced by Corynebacterium insidiosum toxin. Plant Physiol 55:559

  82. Waring RH, Cleary BD (1967) Plant moisture stress: evaluation by pressure bomb. Science 155:1248

  83. Weatherley PE (1970) Some aspects of water relations. Adv Bot Res 3:171

  84. Wenkert W (1980) Measurement of tissue osmotic pressure. Plant Physiol 65:614

  85. Wenkert W, Lemon ER, Sinclair TR (1978) Water content-potential relationship in soya bean: changes in component potentials for mature and immature leaves under field conditions. Ann Bot 42:295

  86. Wilson JR, Fisher MJ, Schulze ED, Dolby GR, Ludlow MM (1979) Comparison between pressure-volume and dewpoint-hygrometry techniques for determining the water relations characteristic of grass and legume leaves. Oecologia 41:77

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Turner, N.C. Measurement of plant water status by the pressure chamber technique. Irrig Sci 9, 289–308 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00296704

Download citation


  • Water Management
  • Water Pollution
  • Water Potential
  • Water Status
  • Total Water