506 PB 248 DETERMINING THE EFFECT OF CLOUD CONDITIONS ON THE VARIATION IN DAYLENGTH PERCEIVED BY PLANTS

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1325

Quantum sensors were placed at plant canopy height inside and outside a glass greenhouse. Photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) was measured during September for a 3-hour period near sunrise and sunset, which were determined from US Naval Observatory Circular #171. Under clear skies, the PPF at the canopy exceeded 0.25 μmol·m-2·s-1 for nearly 20 minutes before sunrise through 20 minutes after sunset. Under heavy overcast, the duration was only 5 minutes before sunrise through 5 minutes after sunset. The PPF at the canopy reached 0.25 μmol·m-2·s-1 approximately 12 minutes later in the morning and 12 minutes earlier in the evening than it did outside the greenhouse. The length of the dark period perceived by plants in a greenhouse on September 21st (assuming plants perceive light at 0.25 μmol·m-2·s-1) can range from 11:37 (hr:min) during cloudy conditions to 11:15 during clear ones, a difference of 22 minutes. At 43°N latitude, the maximum difference in date of flower initiation because of an extended period of heavily overcast versus clear weather on a crop such as poinsettias would be one week since the night length during September increases by 3 minutes per day. The actual difference from year to year is probably less because a seven-day duration of heavily overcast weather is unlikely.

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