Ethylene Production throughout Growth and Development of Plants

in HortScience
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  • 1 NASA Biological Research Office and Dynamac Corp. Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899

Ethylene production by 10 or 20 m2 stands of wheat, soybean, lettuce, potato, and tomato was monitored throughout growth and development in an atmospherically closed plant chamber. Chamber ethylene levels varied among species and rose during periods of canopy expansion and rapid growth for all species. Following this, ethylene levels either declined during seed fill and maturation for wheat and soybean, or remained relatively constant for potato and tomato (during flowering and early fruit development). Lettuce plants were harvested during rapid growth and peak ethylene production. Chamber ethylene levels increased rapidly during tomato ripening, reaching concentrations about 10 times that measured during vegetative growth. The highest ethylene production rates during vegetative growth ranged from 1.6 to 2.5 nmol·m-2·d-1 during rapid growth of lettuce and wheat stands, or about 0.3 to 0.5 nmol·g-1 fresh weight per hour. Estimates of stand ethylene production during tomato ripening showed that rates reached 43 nmol·m-2·d-1 in one study and 93 nmol·m-2·d-1 in a second study with higher lighting, or about 50× that of the rate during vegetative growth of tomato. In a related test with potato, the photoperiod was extended from 12 to 24 hours (continuous light) at 58 days after planting (to increase tuber yield), but this change in the environment caused a sharp increase in ethylene production from the basal rate of 0.4 to 6.2 nmol·m-2·d-1. Following this, the photoperiod was changed back to 12 h at 61 days and ethylene levels decreased. The results suggest three separate categories of ethylene production were observed with whole stands of plants: 1) production during rapid vegetative growth, 2) production during climacteric fruit ripening, and 3) production from environmental stress.

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Contributor Notes

Corresponding author: NASA Mail Code YA-E4-B, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899; e-mail
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