Pot binding as a variable confounding plant phenotype: theoretical derivation and experimental observations

Thomas R. Sinclair, Anju Manandhar, Avat Shekoofa, Pablo Rosas-Anderson, Laleh Bagherzadi, Remy Schoppach, Walid Sadok, Thomas W. Rufty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Main conclusion: Theoretical derivation predicted growth retardation due to pot water limitations, i.e., pot binding. Experimental observations were consistent with these limitations. Combined, these results indicate a need for caution in high-throughput screening and phenotyping. Pot experiments are a mainstay in many plant studies, including the current emphasis on developing high-throughput, phenotyping systems. Pot studies can be vulnerable to decreased physiological activity of the plants particularly when pot volume is small, i.e., “pot binding”. It is necessary to understand the conditions under which pot binding may exist to avoid the confounding influence of pot binding in interpreting experimental results. In this paper, a derivation is offered that gives well-defined conditions for the occurrence of pot binding based on restricted water availability. These results showed that not only are pot volume and plant size important variables, but the potting media is critical. Artificial potting mixtures used in many studies, including many high-throughput phenotyping systems, are particularly susceptible to the confounding influences of pot binding. Experimental studies for several crop species are presented that clearly show the existence of thresholds of plant leaf area at which various pot sizes and potting media result in the induction of pot binding even though there may be no immediate, visual plant symptoms. The derivation and experimental results showed that pot binding can readily occur in plant experiments if care is not given to have sufficiently large pots, suitable potting media, and maintenance of pot water status. Clear guidelines are provided for avoiding the confounding effects of water-limited pot binding in studying plant phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-735
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Leaf area development
  • Pot volume
  • Soil medium
  • Soil water
  • Stomatal conductance
  • Water limitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Pot binding as a variable confounding plant phenotype: theoretical derivation and experimental observations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this