Kate Johnson

(Honours student 2017)

When plants are water stressed, they are at risk of cavitation, the rapid invasion of air into the xylem resulting in bubbles (embolisms) which stop the flow of water and can cause plant death. With climate change bringing drier conditions, plants will be placed under greater water stress.


I’m using the ‘Optical Method’ (images captured via a microscope or camera) to investigate whether rewatering can induce refilling of the xylem or any sort of rehydration/recovery of embolised leaves in wheat. While it has long being assumed that embolisms occur routinely and are repaired by refilling overnight, this has not yet been visualised.


I’m comparing fluorescence and water potential to cavitation to determine the relationship between these measures. This research has important implications for both agriculture and native plant systems in an increasingly arid world.