When bell pepper plants are subjected to high temperatures or low irradiance during flowering, abscission of flowers and flower buds can be severe enough to limit yields. Both types of stresses may lead to reduction of carbohydrate levels in the reproductive structures, and evolution of the abscission-causing hormone ethylene. In two greenhouse experiments, plants were subjected to combinations of 30 or 20 C air temperature and unshaded or heavily shaded conditions for one week at anthesis of the first flower. In a third experiment, plants were subjected to total darkness and temperatures of 30, 20 or 15 C for one week at the same stage of growth. In all experiments, levels of soluble carbohydrates and starch declined under low or zero light conditions, with rate of decrease proportional to the air temperature. Abscission of reproductive structures was not well correlated with carbohydrate levels: in spite of low sugars and starch, plants darkened for 7 days at 15 C showed no abscission. Levels of the ethylene precursor ACC in the buds, though variable, rose just before abscission began, but remained low in non-abscising treatments.
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