Analytic solutions and universal properties of sugar loading models in Münch phloem flow

Kåre Hartvig Jensen, Kirstine Berg-Sørensen, Søren Michael Mørk Friis, Tomas Bohr

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The transport of sugars in the phloem vascular system of plants is believed to be driven by osmotic pressure differences according to the Münch hypothesis. Thus, the translocation process is viewed as a passive reaction to the active sugar loading in the leaves and sugar unloading in roots and other places of growth or storage. The modelling of the loading and unloading mechanism is thus a key ingredient in the mathematical description of such flows, but the influence of particular choices of loading functions on the translocation characteristics is not well understood. Most of the work has relied on numerical solutions, which makes it difficult to draw general conclusions. Here, we present analytic solutions to the Münch–Horwitz flow equations when the loading and unloading rates are assumed to be linear functions of the concentration, thus allowing them to depend on the local osmotic pressure. We are able to solve the equations analytically for very small and very large Münch numbers (e.g., very small and very large viscosity) for the flow velocity and sugar concentration as a function of the geometric and material parameters of the system. We further show, somewhat surprisingly, that the constant loading case can be solved along the same lines and we speculate on possible universal properties of different loading and unloading functions applied in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Pages (from-to)286-296
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Sugar translocation in plants
  • Phloem loading
  • Analytic solutions of Münch flow
  • Osmosis
  • Biological fluid dynamics


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