Photosynthetic Characterization and Response to Drought and Temperature in Wild Asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius L.)

in HortScience

The wild asparagus species Asparagus acutifolius L. is widespread in Mediterranean and subtropical environments, where its spears are consumed regularly. The species is known to have ecophysiologic plasticity, however there is no literature on this subject. This work aimed at assessing the photosynthetic characteristics of this wild species of asparagus, grown under full light (FL) and partial (i.e., about 40%) light (PL) conditions, and evaluating its ecophysiologic response to drought and temperature stress. The photosynthetic response to light of spears and of new cladodes (NC; current year) and old cladodes (OC; previous year) was measured using an infrared gas analyzer coupled with a climatized cuvette chamber. Cladodes net photosynthesis at high irradiance was also measured at varying air temperatures and decreasing soil water availability. Results indicate that developing spears were photosynthetically active with no difference between FL and PL treatments. Photosynthetic rates did not differ between NCs and OCs and were greater for FL cladodes, except at low irradiance. Well-watered plants were photosynthetically active from 0 to 45 °C, with a maximum photosynthetic rate of up to 9 µmol·m–2·s–1 at 30 °C and a decrease of about 60% at 45 °C. The species also demonstrated high tolerance to drought, with positive net photosynthesis even at predawn leaf water potential values of –2.4 MPa. Showing great ecophysiologic plasticity, this wild asparagus could be an interesting species in areas were conventional crop species are not profitable economically, or as an intercrop in agroforestry systems.

Contributor Notes

We thank Dr. Darcy Gordon for language editing.

Corresponding author. E-mail: adolfo.rosati@crea.gov.it.

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    (A) Net (An) and (B) gross (Ag) CO2 assimilation response to photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) of well-watered Asparagus acutifolius spear tips and spear trunks measured at 20 °C (air temperature). Data from the full light and partial light treatments were pooled. Data represent mean and se (bars) of 20 measurements.

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    (A) Net CO2 assimilation response (An) to photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) of Asparagus acutifolius cladodes from well-watered plants grown in full light (FL) or partial light (PL), measured at 20 °C (air temperature). Data from the new and old cladodes were pooled. Data represent mean and se (bars) of 20 measurements. (B) Same data, but only for PAR values from 0 to 100 µmol·m–2·s–1.

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    Predawn leaf water potential and soil moisture variations in Asparagus acutifolius during the 6 d of the drought experiment. Data represent mean and se (bars) of 10 measurements for soil water content (data pooled for the two light treatments) and of 15 measurements per treatment for leaf water potential.

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    (A) Response of net CO2 assimilation at 1500 µmol·m–2·s–2 of photosynthetically active radiation (An1500) to varying air temperature in new cladodes from well-watered plants of Asparagus acutifolius grown in full light or partial light. Data represent mean and se (bars) of five measurements. (B) Same data for well-watered plants, but pooling the two light treatments, and data for increasing drought levels (i.e., Ψl of –0.9, 01.4, and −2.4 MPa) at increasing temperatures starting from 30 °C. Data represent mean and se (bars) of 10 measurements per each temperature step.

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    Substomatal CO2 concentration (Ci) in cladodes of Asparagus acutifolius at different air temperature and drought levels, as in Fig. 4B. Data represent mean and se (bars) of 10 measurements per each temperature step.

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