This equation breaks down the observed phenotype (plant height, yield, kernel color, etc.) into the effects from the genotype (the plants underlying genetics) and the effects of the environment (rainfall, average daily temperature, etc.). You can see from this equation that the quality of your study directly depends on the kind of environmental data you collect. Thus, if you’re not measuring the right type of data, the accuracy of your entire study can be compromised.
Water potential: the secret to understanding water stress in plants
As you may know, drought studies are notoriously difficult to replicate, quantify, or even design. That’s because there is nothing predictable about drought timing, intensity, or duration. We also know that looking at precipitation alone, or even volumetric water content, doesn't adequately describe the drought conditions that are occurring in the soil. Added to that, it’s difficult to make comparisons across sites with different soil types. Soil water potential is an essential tool for quantifying drought stress in plant research because it allows you to make quantitative assessments about drought and provides an easy way to compare those results across field sites and over time. Let’s take a closer look to see why.
When we think about soil, it's usually in the context of plant growth. We know that soil impacts plant growth through nutrient availability, potential disease pressure, root growth, and water availability.