Changes in Kale Pigment Profiles during Leaf Ontogeny

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  • 1 University of Tennessee, Plant Sciences, 252 Ellington Plant Sciences, Knoxville, TN, 37996-4561

Chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments were measured with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) during leaf development in kale (Brassicaoleracea L. var. acephala D.C). Lutein and β-carotene are two plant-derived carotenoids that possess important human health properties. Diets high in these carotenoids are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Kale plants were growth-chamber grown in nutrient solution culture at 20 °C under 500 μmol·m-2·s-1 of irradiance. Pigments were measured in young (<1 week), immature (1-2 weeks), mature (2-3 weeks), fully developed (3-4 weeks) and senescing (>4 weeks) leaves. Significant differences were measured for all four pigments during leaf development. Accumulation of the pigments followed a quadratic trend, with maximum accumulation occurring between the first and third week of leaf age. The highest concentrations of lutein were recorded in 1- to 2-week-old leaves at 15.1 mg per 100 g fresh weight. The remaining pigments reached maximum levels at 2-3 weeks, with β-carotene at 11.6 mg per 100 g, chlorophyll a at 251.4 mg per 100 g, and chlorophyll b at 56.9 mg per 100 g fresh weight. Identifying changes in carotenoid and chlorophyll accumulation over developmental stages in leaf tissues is applicable to “baby” leafy greens and traditional production practices for fresh markets.

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