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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950
Print version ISSN 0378-4738


GUSH, MB. Measurement of water-use by Jatropha curcas L. using the heat-pulse velocity technique. Water SA [online]. 2008, vol.34, n.5, pp.1-5. ISSN 1816-7950.

In response to the proposed introduction of the potential bio-diesel species Jatropha curcas (Linnaeus) to South Africa, field experiments were conducted to investigate its likely water-use impacts relative to other forms of vegetative land use. As no existing water-use data could be found for this species worldwide, sap flow in Jatropha curcas trees was measured continuously for a 17-month period at two sites in eastern South Africa. These consisted of young (4-year-old) trees at a relatively wet site and mature (12-year-old) trees at a dry site. The heat-ratio method of the heat-pulse technique was utilised, together with measurements of meteorological variables and soil water. Sap- flow rates varied according to tree age, season, prevailing meteorological conditions, and soil moisture levels. Peak sap-flow rates occurred during the warm wet summer months, but due to the deciduous nature of the species, water use was negligible during winter. Scaled-up sap-flow measurements resulted in estimates of total annual transpiration of 1 983 ℓ (147 mm) for a 4-year-old J. curcas tree, and 4 884 ℓ (362 mm) for a 12-year-old J. curcas tree. The study concluded that the J. curcas trees studied were conservative in their water use, and were unlikely to transpire more water than indigenous vegetation types of the area.

Keywords : heat ratio method; sap flow; transpiration; water resource impacts.

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