The stem heat balance method (HBM) measures sap flow (SF) in plants, and can be used to estimate daily transpiration flow. It is a powerful technique for water relations and irrigation field studies, but it has to be tested in species of particular interest. This paper discusses effectiveness of the HBM to estimate transpiration of young acid lime plants (Citrus latifolia Tan. cv. Tahiti), grafted on citrumelo cv. Swingle (Poncirus trifoliata Raf. x C. paradisi Macf.), in the field using commercial gauges (model SAG10-ws, Dynamax Inc., Huston), in Piracicaba, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. SF was correlated to transpiration determined by weighing lysimeters and by a steady-state null-balance porometer. The mean ratio between daily values of SF and lysimetric measurements was practically unitary, showing a mean difference of only 0.05%, being the comparisons of values in periods shorter than 24 hours impaired by effect of wind turbulence on lysimeters. The same occurred (mean difference of 0.38%) when SF and canopy transpiration estimated from porometer measurements were compared in 20-min periods, but transpiration tended to exceed SF in periods of higher transpiration and data dispersion was high (r² = 0.48). An analysis of the sources errors of the techniques was done, including the comparison of the daily course of SF and net radiation. Despite of the dispersion of the comparative data between the HBM and the other two techniques, HBM had a good performance, permitting to recommend its use in studies of water relations in young citrus plants under field conditions.
SF; maximum transpiration; lysimeter; porometer; citrus