Avoidance of harvesting and sampling artefacts in hydraulic analyses: a protocol tested on Malus domestica

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A prerequisite for reliable hydraulic measurements is an accurate collection of the plant material. Thereby, the native hydraulic state of the sample has to be preserved during harvesting (i.e., cutting the plant or plant parts) and preparation (i.e., excising the target section). This is particularly difficult when harvesting has to be done under transpiring conditions. In this article, we present a harvesting and sampling protocol designed for hydraulic measurements on Malus domestica Borkh. and checked for possible sampling artefacts. To test for artefacts, we analysed the percentage loss of hydraulic conductivity, maximum specific conductivity and water contents of bark and wood of branches, taking into account conduit length, time of day of harvesting, different shoot ages and seasonal effects. Our results prove that use of appropriate protocols can avoid artefactual embolization or refilling even when the xylem is under tension at harvest. The presented protocol was developed for Malus but may also be applied for other angiosperms with similar anatomy and refilling characteristics.

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