About sap flow

What is sap flow?

All plants have sap moving through internal tubes and conduits. Like blood in humans, sap contains water, nutrients, solutes, and hormones, and is vital to the healthy functioning of plant tissues and cells.

Sap flow technology refers to the tools and methods involved in sensing the movement of sap through a plant. Sap flow technology principally uses heat as a tracer of water movement through the plant. Tracking the daily rhythms of sap movement through plants with sap flow sensors is a powerful and non-destructive monitoring tool that can generate key insights into plant health.

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How is sap flow technology being used?

By sensing/detecting the movement of sap, sap flow sensors can quantify how much water the plant is moving, as well as to provide an indication of the overall health of a plant.

Healthy plants are typically well-hydrated and can move large amounts of sap through their tissues. As a plant dries out sap flow declines to the point where a plant can become water stressed.

The scale of detection can vary - sensors can detect the movement of water into smaller tissues, like an individual fruit (e.g., an apple), or through a main branch or trunk of a tree. Doing so has implications for understanding fruit quality, yield, or irrigation demand.

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What information does sap flow tell me?

  • Plant water status: sap flow sensors detect the rate of sap flow, which reveals changes in whole-plant function that can be used to inform irrigation scheduling.

  • Stand water management: sap flow can also reveal the volume of sap moving through plants, which can be used to quantify whole-plant or stand-level water use.

  • Plant productivity: plants "breathe" through pores on the surfaces of leaves called stomata - taking up carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, while simultaneously losing water. Since the amount of water lost from the plant is proportional to the amount of carbon being assimilated, sap flow can reveal plant productivity.

  • Fruit hydration: sap flow sensors can detect the amount of sap moving into or out of fruits, yielding precise information on fruit quality.

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What are the benefits of sap flow monitoring?

  • Plant Health Insights: Precisely understand water movement within plant tissues, improving fruit quality and yields.

  • Enhanced Fruit Quality: Optimise hydration and fruit expansion for better-quality produce.

  • Increased Yield: Fine-tune irrigation based on real-time plant function, leading to higher yields.

  • Sustainability & Cost Savings: Conserve water, reduce costs, and promote sustainable farming practices.

  • Non-Destructive Monitoring: Gather critical data without harming the plant's health.

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