Absorption of water

Absorption of water

Water is highly essential for plants for various metabolic activities. Land plants get their water supply from soil which serves as the source of water and minerals to them. The way in which water from soil enters roots, particularly to the root xylem, is called "mechanism of water absorption". Both Active and Passive absorption have been proposed for mechanism of water absorption.


Active Absorption

It is absorption of water by roots with the help of metabolic energy generated by the root respiration.The force for water absorption originates from the cells of root due to root respiration.As the root cells actively take part in the process so it is called Active absorption. According to Renner, active absorption takes place in low transpiring and well-watered plants and 4% of total water absorption is carried out in this process. The active absorption is carried out by two theories which are, Active osmotic water absorption and Active non-osmotic water absorption.

Active osmotic water absorption

This theory was given by Atkins (1916) and Priestley (1921). According to this theory, the root cells behave as ideal osmotic system through which water moves up from soil solution to root xylem along an increasing gradient of D.P.D. (suction pressure which is the real force for water absorption). If solute concentration is high and water potential is low in the root cells, water can enter from soil to root cells through endosmosis. Mineral nutrients are absorbed actively by the root cells due to utilisation of ATP. As a result, the concentration of ions (osmotica) in the xylem vessels is more in comparison to the soil water. A concentration gradient is established between the root and the soil water.Hence, the solute potential of xylem water is more in comparison to that of soil and correspondingly water potential is low than the soil water.Otherwise stated, water potential is comparatively positive in the soil water. This gradient of water potential causes endosmosis. The endosmosis of water continues till the water potential both in the root and soil becomes equal. It is the absorption of minerals that utilise metabolic energy, but not water absorption. Hence, absorption of water is indirectly an active process.

Active non-osmotic water absorption

This theory was given by Thimann (1951) and Kramer (1959). According to the theory, sometimes water is absorbed against concentration gradient.This requires expenditure of metabolic energy released from respiration of root cells.There is no direct evidence, but some scientists suggest involvement of energy from respiration.In conclusion it is said that, the evidences supporting active absorption of water are themselves poor.

Passive absorption

This mechanism is carried out without utilisation of metabolic energy.Here only the root act as an organ of absorption or passage. Hence, sometimes it is called water absorption 'through roots', rather 'by' roots. It occurs in rapidly transpiring plants during daytime, because of opening of stomata and the atmospheric conditions. The force for absorption of water is created at the leaf end i.i. the transpiration pull. The main cause behind this transpiration pull, water is lifted up in the plant axis like a bucket of water is lifted by a person from an well. Transpiration pull is responsible for dragging water at the leaf end, the pull or force is transmitted down to the root through water column in the xylem elements. The continuity of water column remains intact due to the cohesion between the molecules and it act as a rope. Roots simply act as a passive organ of absorption. As transpiration proceeds, simultaneously water absorption also takes place to compensate the water loss from leaf end. Most volume of water entering plants is by means of passive absorption.


The water thus absorbed by the plants as described and most of the absorption is by passive absorption.

See also


  1. http://www.tutorvista.com/content/biology/biology-iv/plant-water-relations/absorption-water-by-plants.php
  2. http://www.springerlink.com/content/qw62632354v4nm77/
  3. http://www.ictinternational.com.au/appnotes/ICT101.htm
  4. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4353618
  5. http://www.wiziq.com/tutorial/70692-Biology-XI-11-Transport-in-plants-4-Mechanism-of-Water-Absorption

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