Thermotolerance of photosynthesis and productivity in `Chandler' and `Sweet Charlie' strawberry plants (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.) exposed to three temperature regimes was studied. Net CO2 assimilation rate (A), variable chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv), efficiency of photosystem II (Fv/Fm), relative chlorophyll content, plant growth, and fruit yield and quality were measured. High temperature (40 °C day/35 °C night) was more detrimental to photosynthesis and productivity than the moderate or low temperature (30/25 or 20/15 °C). Net CO2 assimilation rate in both cultivars was markedly reduced by 40/35 °C, although there was slight decline in `Sweet Charlie' at 30/25 °C. `Chandler' maintained significantly higher A rates than `Sweet Charlie' for at least three weeks of heat stress, indicating that `Chandler' might tolerate longer exposure to high temperature. In parallel to the decrease in A rate, intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci) and instantaneous water use efficiency (WUE) were significantly decreased at high temperature. `Chandler' leaves were cooler and transpired more than `Sweet Charlie' leaves, suggesting that each cultivar adopted different heat resistance mechanisms at 40/35 °C. There were changes in Fv and Fv/Fm with increasing temperature, indicating irreversible damage to photosystem II at 40/35 °C might have occurred. The trend of reduction in stomatal conductance (gS) in both cultivars at high temperature did not coincide with the reduction in A rates. Decline in A rates at high temperature was more related to changes in Fv/Fm than to gS activity. The optimal temperature for vegetative growth was 30/25 °C. Reduction in A rate at high temperature resulted in reduction in total leaf area (LA), shoot, root, and leaf biomasses. Strawberry roots were more responsive than shoot growth to temperatures above 20/15 °C. Fruit yield for `Chandler' was higher at 20/15 °C than at 30/25 °C, suggesting that `Chandler' might have a higher source-to-sink relationship at 20/15 °C than at 30/25 °C. Fruit skin color was temperature dependent only for `Chandler'. A quadratic relationship between flower development and duration of exposure to 30/25 °C for both cultivars was observed; more than two weeks of 30/25 °C can be detrimental to flower development. Regardless of the cultivar and duration of exposure, 40/35 °C was the temperature regime most detrimental to fruit set.
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