502 Intermittent CO2 Enrichment for Hydroponic Lettuce Production

in HortScience

CO2 enrichment increases efficiency of light utilization and rate of growth, thereby reducing the need for supplemental lighting and potentially lowering cost of production. However, during warmer periods of the year, CO2 enrichment is only possible intermittently due to the need to vent for temperature control. Previous research investigated the separate and combined effects of daily light integral and continuous CO2 enrichment on biomass accumulation in lettuce. The current research was designed to look at the efficiency with which lettuce is able to utilize intermittent CO2 enrichment, test the accuracy with which growth can be predicted and controlled, and examine effects of varying CO2 enrichment and supplemental lighting on carbon assimilation and plant transpiration on a minute by minute basis. Experiments included application of various schedules of intermittent CO2 enrichment and gas exchange analysis to elucidate underlying physiological processes. Same-day and day-to-day adjustments in daily light integrals were made in response to occasional CO2 venting episodes, using an up-to-the-minute estimate of growth progress based on an integration of growth increments that were calculated from actual light levels and CO2 concentrations experienced by the plants. Results indicated lettuce integrates periods of intermittent CO2 enrichment well, achieving expected growth targets as measured by destructive sampling. The gas-exchange work quantified a pervasive impact of instantaneous light level and CO2 concentration on conductance and CO2 assimilation. Implications for when to apply supplemental lighting and CO2 enrichment to best advantage and methods for predicting and controlling growth under intermittent CO2 enrichment are discussed.

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