Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

Diagnosis: Drought

A new tool, adapted from medical technology, helps study water content in plants.
October 1, 2017
 how water is taken in and transported by different kinds of plants

To understand the drought process, scientists need to understand how water is taken in and transported by different kinds of plants.

There aren’t many other options for non-destructive, low-cost, lightweight, and scalable water measurement in the field.

The availability of water controls a plant’s ability to exchange gas with the atmosphere, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen—both processes that humans rely on plants to do. That means scientists need instruments that can measure water in living plants over long periods of time. However, most methods in use today involve puncturing the plant and probing the inside, which damages the plant and creates confounding dryness at the site being measured. Los Alamos scientists have developed a radically different approach to measuring water uptake and transport in living plants. The technology itself and the data it provides will shed new light on the drought process.