A research collaboration between Clemson Univ. and Mitsui Chemicals, Japan, has been established to develop and test photoselective greenhouse covers that can filter out far-red (FR) light and control plant height with minimal use of chemicals. The effects of polymethyl methacylate (PMMA) filters containing FR-intercepting dyes were evaluated on watermelon, pepper, chrysanthemum, and tomato to select an optimum dye concentration. As the dye concentration increased, FR interception increased, photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) decreased, and phytochrome photoequilibrium increased from 0.72 to 0.82. Light transmitted through photoselective filters reduced plant height effectively in all species tested. However, watermelon was the most responsive (50% height reduction) and chrysanthemum was the least responsive (20% height reduction) to filtered light. Tomato and peppers had an intermediate response. In watermelons, total shoot dry weight was reduced over 25% compared to the control plants, with a progressive decrease in shoot weight as the dye concentration increased. The specific stem dry weight was gradually reduced as the dye concentration increased. Specific leaf dry weight was slightly reduced under filters, suggesting that smaller plants as opposed to a reduction in dry matter production primarily caused total dry weight reduction. Light transmitted through filters reduced percentage dry matter accumulation into stems from 27% to 18% and increased dry matter accumulation into leaves from 73% to 82%. Photoselective filters are effective in controlling height similarly to chemical growth regulators. Considering the PAR reduction by increase in dye concentration, a dye concentration that gives a light reduction of 25% or 35% may be optimum for commercial development of photoselective films.
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